This post first appeared in Business Insider.
A little background:
Tuesday night, Vox Media’s Yuri Victor tweeted a screenshot from his Mac that shows an error message from Netflix claiming that Verizon’s clogged internet is responsible for poor streaming quality. A Netflix spokesperson later confirmed on Twitter that the company is testing new ways to alert users why streams may be sluggish.
Verizon fired back, claiming it’s actually Netflix’s clogged servers causing the problem.
But it’s not that simple, folks!
On the surface, it looks like we’re stuck in one of those he-said, she-said situations. However, Netflix recently agreed to start paying Verizon for “direct access” to Verizon’s customers. This, in theory, should result in faster streams. Netflix has a similar deal with Comcast that has already proven to result in faster speeds.
In the cease and desist letter to Netflix, Verizon’s general counsel Randal Milch writes:
Netflix’s false accusations have the potential to harm the Verizon brand in the marketplace. This potential harm is broader than only the experience of a customer viewing Netflix content. The impression that Netflix is falsey giving our customers is that the Verizon network is generally “crowded” and troublesome. 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.
In light of this, Verizon demands that Netflix immediately cease and desist from providing any such further “notices” to users of the Verizon network.
Milch’s letter gives Netflix five days to comply with its request or face legal action. He also asks for evidence that Verizon’s network is indeed the culprit for poor streaming on Netflix.
In a statement to Business Insider, a Netflix spokesperson intimated that the company won’t stop:
This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider. We are trying to provide more transparency, just like we do with the Netflix ISP Speed Index, and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion.
We are testing ways to let consumers know how their Netflix experience is being affected by congestion on their broadband provider’s network. At present, we are testing in the U.S. in areas serviced by many broadband providers. This test started in early May and it is ongoing.
Our test continues.