Netflix Refuses to Back Down From Notice for Users in Battle With Verizon

Mike Blake/Reuters

For months, Netflix has been waging a public battle against Verizon over the ISP’s attempts to charge for faster connections to its customers.

The most recent volley is centered on Netflix’s apparent attempt to notify users that, despite having paid Verizon these fees, streaming videos still remain choppy on the network.

The notice, which reads, “The Verizon network is crowded right now,” originally began appearing on Netflix customers’ load screens a month ago. Verizon, unsurprisingly, was not pleased. On June 5, it sent a cease-and-desist letter informing Netflix that it would consider taking legal action if the notice wasn’t pulled down.

"The impression that Netflix is falsely giving our customers is that the Verizon network is generally 'crowded' and troublesome,” Verizon wrote. “This could cause a customer to think that any attempted viewing of video, whether it be Hulu, YouTube or other sites, would yield a similarly 'crowded' experience, and he or she may then choose to alter or cease their use of the Verizon network."

Verizon also requested the names of every user who received the notice, along with a justification that the ISP was to blame.

In its response letter, dated June 9, Netflix formally turned down the request. It also explained that the company was providing similar notifications to Netflix customers of other ISP’s who are suffering similar slow speeds.

In Netflix’s letter to Verizon, the company wrote, “the messaging is part of our ongoing transparency efforts to let consumers know their Netflix experience is being affected by congestion on their broadband provider’s network.”

The heart of the issue is that when users stream a video, Netflix delivers it to their ISP who, in turn, delivers it to the customer. Large ISPs have begun charging the company for sufficient capacity at these connection points to smoothly deliver videos. In a blog post on Monday, Netflix referred to these connection charges as “toll booths,” adding that, “ISPs are double-dipping by getting both their subscribers and Internet content providers to pay access to each other.”

Netflix agreed to pay Verizon these “tolls” back in April. But it did so begrudgingly and, since then, according to an internal study, speeds on Verizon haven’t improved. Netflix’s ranking of ISP speeds for May 2014 indicate that Verizon’s average speed, 1.90 Mbps (which is about .4 Mbps below average) fell two spots on the list to number 10.

“[Verizon has] allowed [its] network connection to Netflix to degrade until we agreed to pay for augmented interconnection,” Netflix wrote in its response letter. “We brought the data right to your doorstep…all you had to do was open your door.”