Netflix Will Stop Blaming Internet Providers for Slow Speeds — for Now

Verizon threatened to sue the video site over the congestion messages.

With Verizon threatening legal action, Netflix said Monday it will stop telling users that their Internet service providers are responsible for poor video quality.

In a blog post, Netflix said the messages are part of a "small-scale test" that will end June 16. "We will evaluate rolling it out more broadly," Joris Evers, a Netflix spokesman, wrote.

The messages were first publicized last week in a tweet by Yuri Victor, a designer at Vox.

"The Verizon network is crowded right now," the message to Victor read. "Adjusting video for smoother playback."

The messages were also displayed on other networks, but Verizon fought back the most fiercely against the accusation.

The telecom giant sent Netflix a cease-and-desist letter, maintaining that "there is no basis" to blame Verizon for slow speeds. In all likelihood, the problems are a result of how Netflix has chosen to connect its video content to Verizon's network, Verizon wrote.

Although Netflix appears to be backing down over the congestion messages, the company still insists that the Internet providers are to blame for long buffering times and blurry videos.

The problems occur "when the broadband provider hasn't provided enough capacity to accommodate the traffic their customer requested," Netflix wrote.

The congestion messages come as Netflix is being forced to pay for the first time for direct connections to Internet providers' networks.

Skipping over traffic intermediaries and plugging directly into providers' networks can ensure that Netflix's data flows as smoothly as possible to consumers.

Netflix is paying Comcast for direct access to its customers. The company also struck a deal with Verizon, but it could take a few months to put the Verizon connections in place.

The interconnection fights are separate from the issue of net neutrality — which governs only how Internet providers must handle traffic once it's on their networks. But in practice, the issues appear the same to consumers. Netflix traffic deteriorated steadily for Comcast customers until the video site agreed to pay for the connection deal, which led to a swift boost in quality.

In the blog post, Netflix argued that large Internet providers are "erecting toll booths," which "raise costs, stifle innovation, and harm consumers."

Broadband providers "should provide sufficient capacity into their network to provide consumers the broadband experience for which they pay," the video site wrote.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he wants to look into the interconnection deals, but the agency has yet to take any formal action.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4950) }}