Netflix Decides to Join the Net Neutrality Fight After All

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings during a Netflix event on March 1 in Berlin.

John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Netflix reversed course and announced its support for the Net Neutrality Day of Action on its Twitter account:

Only two weeks ago, Netflix had seemingly decided to leave the net neutrality fight behind. At Recode’s Code Conference, CEO Reed Hastings said that net neutrality—the principle that prevents internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon from slowing down certain websites and prioritizing others—was not its “primary battle” at the moment, adding that Netflix can “get the deals we want” and that it’s up to other companies, such as Amazon and Mozilla, to continue the fight.

In May, the Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission voted to roll back regulations put in place by the Obama administration to protect net neutrality. The July 12 day of action will bring together multiple companies to “sound the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality,” according to organizer Fight for the Future’s website.

This choice to participate in the protest is more in line with the Netflix of past. In 2012, Hastings called out Comcast, a company he would later partner with, for its use of data caps against his video-streaming behemoth. In 2014, Netflix helped lead a coalition, which included eBay and Facebook, to lend support to net neutrality, and it took part in the September 2014 Internet Slowdown Day protest, where companies had symbolic loading symbols on their sites to show what might happen if net neutrality protections were erased.

But it’s also not the first time Netflix has sent conflicting messages about its stance on net neutrality. In 2014, Netflix made a deal with Comcast, a company that would likely benefit from the FCC’s abandonment of net neutrality, so that Netflix subscribers could get smoother streaming for its videos when watching via Comcast networks.

So was this all a ruse to make for a more dramatic reveal when it announced its support? As Slate’s Ian Prasad Philbrick reported, Hastings and Netflix are likely doing what’s best for business. And with so many Americans supporting net neutrality, maybe it decided this was.