FCC stepping in to ISP v. Netflix internet speed dispute

By: ABC News Email
By: ABC News Email
The agency announced it is reviewing service problems for customers of Internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and Verizon, and content providers like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.

Vox Media employee Yuri Victor tweeted this photo of a Netflix loading screen that indicated Verizon's network speeds were to blame for slow video playback. (courtesy @yurivictor/Twitter)

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Washington (ABC) -- Fans who are frustrated over slow streaming of "Orange is the New Black," "House of Cards" or other Netflix hits, may finally learn who is to blame.

The Federal Communications Commission announced it is reviewing service problems for customers of Internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and Verizon, and content providers like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.

This month, Netflix battled publicly with Verizon, with each party blaming the other for slower video streaming. When some Netflix customers were faced with video service problems, Netflix showed a statement that read, "The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback..."

In response, Verizon sent Netflix a "cease and desist" letter, blaming the content company for the service issues. On Monday, Netflix stopped posting the notice that mentioned Verizon.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said that his staff is collecting information from ISPs and content providers to understand "precisely what is happening in order to understand whether consumers are being harmed."

Wheeler said he has received agreements between Comcast and Netflix and Verizon and Netflix, and he is asking for others.

“To be clear, what we are doing right now is collecting information, not regulating," Wheeler said in a statement on Friday. "We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I."

Earlier this week, Netflix fired back at Verizon, which it has been paying since April for a direct customer connection to improve video delivery. Netflix also entered into an arrangement with Comcast in February.

"Some broadband providers argue that our actions, and not theirs, are causing a degraded Netflix experience," Netflix spokesman Joris Evers wrote in a company blog post on Monday. "Netflix does not purposely select congested routes. We pay some of the world’s largest transit networks to deliver Netflix video right to the front door of an ISP. Where the problem occurs is at that door -- the interconnection point -- when the broadband provider hasn’t provided enough capacity to accommodate the traffic their customer requested."

A spokeswoman for Netflix provided a statement to ABC News, saying: "We welcome the FCC's efforts to bring more transparency in this area. Americans deserve to get the speed and quality of Internet access they pay for."

A Verizon spokesman said in a statement, "Internet traffic exchange has always been handled through commercial agreements. This has worked well for the Internet ecosystem and consumers. We are hopeful that policy makers will recognize this fact and that the Internet will continue to be the engine of growth of the global economy."

Comcast did not respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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