Blog Post

Netflix and Verizon in public cat-fight over poor video quality

Verizon(s vz) has responded to public chiding from Netflix(s nflx) over its internet speed by sending its erstwhile “partner” an equally public cease-and-desist instructing Netflix to stop doing that … or else. The spat is the latest is what is becoming a near-weekly PR battle over who is to blame for the lousy state of America’s online video streaming.

In case you missed it, this week’s contretemps came after the media gleefully pointed out how Netflix has decided to point fingers when its subscribers get their shows interrupted by a slow connection. A tweet of a screenshot saying “The Verizon Network is crowded now” appears to have really bugged the telecom giant:

Even though Netflix is reportedly giving other ISP’s the same treatment, Verizon professed outrage and on Thursday issued a “cease-and-desist” letter that is now all over the internet. Such notices are not new. As you can see below, from a photo take by my colleague Stacey Higginbotham, when congestion causes video streaming problems despite her 50 Mbps video connection, the app or the playback device offers a notification to the user.


The letter, from Verizon’s General Counsel and signed “Randy,” doesn’t read much like a typical legal letter and its vague warning that the company “may .. pursue legal remedies” won’t have Netflix quaking in its boots anytime soon.

But, well, lawsuit thunder gets more notice than plain old press statements. I would just add that consumers should desperately wish that Verizon does sue — the legal discovery process might be our best hope to find out what the heck is really going on behind the scenes.

For now, the likely explanation for the slow video is that, despite a recent agreement between Netflix and Verizon over traffic delivery, Verizon is not doing all that it can to support peering between its network and Netflix’s network, leaving consumers stuck in the lurch.

If there is any good to come out of the episode so far, it could be in the form of more transparency from ISP’s on peering, which is something Gigaom strongly supports. In the meantime, other content companies like YouTube are also doing their bit by rating ISP’s on their performance.

Verizon cease and desist to Netflix

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7 Responses to “Netflix and Verizon in public cat-fight over poor video quality”

  1. I cancelled streaming Netflix because of the poor video quality, even though I was paying for faster speeds from my Internet service provider. I signed up for Amazon Prime and so far those videos are streaming without slowing down or buffering.

  2. docwho3

    Seems funny that my Netflix (and only my Netflix) has poor streaming speed. I watch amazon prime and some other streaming services on my roku and also on my PC at home and I play MMO games and only the Netflix service has a problem so far. I assume it is being targeted, based on the news articles I have read. Before the whole net neutrality thing became an issue in the news I had no such troubles. Makes me wonder.

  3. Christopher Sheets

    its funny that this didnt really start getting this way TILL that law was passed recently pretty much summing up EXACTLY that this was gonna happen…Verizon is to well as Time Warner..Cox Cable…and Comcast…those 4 companies were the sole reason the law passed which gave those companies MORE power…what really should have happened was the internet should have been considered as “public domain” like the phones were. This exact same thing was said about when phones were called “public domain” in the 80’s saying it was gonna cause havoc what it did was FORCE the phone companies to expand their lines and improve them which was better….now they dont have to do diddly squat…lower speeds for EVERYONE and double or triple the prices when they decide to want to give bonuses to their executives passing the buck to GUESS WHO…you. it must be nice to have billions of dollars to lobby personal agenda and turn around when people warned this was gonna happen and look who is stupid. (another reason to get rid of the politicians.

  4. A provider like Comcast or Time Warner want to sell their own VOD services and the Netflix, Amazon Prime,Fandor, MUBI type services compete for those dollars.

    For my work I need to screen new movies on vimeo and other services. But the Comcast pipes to me can’t handle them with constant crashing, freezing and digital breakup. They send techs out who can’t improve things and try to charge me.
    Last night a very nice Comcast lady admitted that they get constant complaints about not being able to properly stream NetFlix content.

    • Christopher Sheets

      the thing is the law passed recently enables them to NOT fix their stuff…charge more and for things that shouldnt be charged and pretty much are almost untouchable now…there was a HUGE petition with MILLIONS of signatures to make the internet “public domain” which would have forced these money sucking greedy companies (who would rob a dying person of their money to fill their pockets) to improve their lines and triple their speeds. as of now we are almost WORSE in the world when it comes to internet speeds…many areas have dsl that runs over 30mbs speed now for almost 10 bucks a month (some may vary) now because of that totally one sided law passing…now they can throttle netflix…and any other company that doesnt belong to them to keep them from making money and forcing customers to use their VOD for outrageous prices where netflix would be so much better and cheaper. millions of signatues to make it public domain wasnt enough to make the politicians to do the right thing…shows what several million dollars (under the table) can do for politicians “vote”

  5. LOL. I thought the same thing. Verizon does NOT want this to go to court.

    When i have issues with Netflix – I never blame Netflix.

    On a separate note. It is interesting how a consumer video streaming system that costs so little can work so well. But look at static images at a medical facility with custom hardware – and the slightest blip on the network and the things go down. Hmm. One is for pleasure and the other is – a patient could die. Which should be better?