Netflix to suspend its controversial ISP error messages

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Netflix will stop blaming your ISP when your Orange is the New Black stream starts to stutter, at least for now. The company announced Monday that it will suspend the display of messages that specifically blame individual internet providers for congestion within its apps by next week.

In a blog post, Netflix communications VP Joris Evers wrote:

“We started a small scale test in early May that lets consumers know, while they’re watching Netflix, that their experience is degraded due to a lack of capacity into their broadband provider’s network. We are testing this across the U.S. wherever there is significant and persistent network congestion This test is scheduled to end on June 16. We will evaluate rolling it out more broadly.”

Reports about these types of error messages first surfaced on Twitter earlier this month, when users reported that they were told by their Netflix app that Verizon’s network was “crowded.” Verizon called the messages a PR stunt, and went on to send Netflix a cease-and-desist notice, demanding to put a stop to the messages.

At the core of the spat is a long-running dispute about peering, with Verizon and other ISPs demanding that Netflix pays them to provide adequate peering capacity. Netflix has begrudgingly signed commercial peering deals with Verizon and Comcast, but at the same time continues to insist that it shouldn’t have to. In Monday’s blog post, Evers wrote:

“Some large US ISPs are erecting toll booths, providing sufficient capacity for services requested by their subscribers to flow through only when those services pay the toll. In this way, ISPs are double-dipping by getting both their subscribers and Internet content providers to pay for access to each other. We believe these ISP tolls are wrong because they raise costs, stifle innovation and harm consumers. ISPs should provide sufficient capacity into their network to provide consumers the broadband experience for which they pay.”

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