Verizon threatens to sue Netflix in war of words over video quality

Verizon is objecting to a Netflix message blaming it for video streaming issues

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

Verizon doesn't like being blamed for low-quality Netflix streams

Image credit: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Verizon Communications has threatened to sue Netflix after the video streaming company started displaying error messages that blamed Verizon for low-quality video streams.

In a letter Thursday to Netflix's General Counsel David Hyman, Randal S. Milch, Verizon's general counsel referred to reports that Netflix was displaying messages to users that the "The Verizon network is crowded right now" and that Netflix was adjusting the video for smoother playback.

There is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues relating to playback of any particular video session are attributable solely to Verizon, according to the letter. Traffic on the Internet can be affected by other factors such as Netflix's choices on how to connect to its consumers and deliver content, interconnection between multiple networks, and consumer-end issues such as home wiring, Wi-Fi and device configuration, it added.

Citing the Internet Phenomena blog, Verizon said that instead of using its ability to connect directly to every broadband network in the country, Netflix has tried to cut costs by relying on a "panoply of content-distribution and other middle-man networks" to reach customers.

"This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider," Netflix said in a statement Thursday. "We are trying to provide more transparency, just like we do with the Netflix ISP Speed Index, and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion."

A Netflix spokesman said the company is testing ways to let its consumers know how their experience is being affected by congestion on their broadband provider's network.

"At present, we are testing in the U.S. in areas serviced by many broadband providers," he wrote in an email. "This is a small test with a couple hundred thousand Netflix members that started in early May and it is ongoing."

The source of the buffering problem faced by Netflix customers is almost certainly not congestion in Verizon's network, but most likely congestion on the connection that Netflix has chosen to use to reach Verizon's network, David Young, Verizon's vice president for federal regulatory affairs, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

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