When negotiations between big media companies and cable TV providers break down, viewers are often left without access to their favorite channels and TV shows.
A fight between CBS and Time Warner Cable last year blacked out channels for millions of consumers. Subscribers to small cable providers lost access to Viacom channels earlier this year.
Those blackouts could be a preview of the Internet's future, Netflix's top lobbyist warned during a panel discussion Wednesday.
Christopher Libertelli said federal regulators should intervene or the Internet service providers could "turn the Internet into more of a cable television system."
Just like in the cable TV industry, disputes between video websites and Internet service providers could keep customers from watching the shows they want, he warned.
For years, websites have hired third parties to deliver data to Internet providers, who carry the content to consumers' homes. In recent years, because of the massive amount of data that Netflix is delivering to its subscribers, the company has been bypassing those third parties and connecting directly to the providers' networks. Those direct connections ensure that Netflix videos stream as smoothly as possible.