Netflix’s need for net neutrality

February 27, 2015

When is streaming a movie more than streaming a movie?

In a historic three to two vote, the Federal Communications Commission yesterday passed new guidelines intended to ensure that the Internet remains freely and openly accessible to everyone using it. As Alina Selyukh explains, the net neutrality vote means that the agency’s new policy, “reclassifies broadband, both fixed and mobile, as a more heavily regulated ‘telecommunications service,’ more like a traditional telephone service.” “The shift,” she adds, “gives the FCC more authority to police various types of deals between providers such as Comcast Corp and content companies such as Netflix Inc to ensure they are just and reasonable for consumers and competitors.”

These new rules apply to all companies—that’s the neutrality part—but as the Internet’s biggest bandwidth hog, Netflix is often cited as the cause célèbre for the need to eliminate data caps and throttling. As this Reuters graphic shows, Netflix accounts for more than one third of all peak downstream Internet traffic in North America. A graph over time shows Netflix download speeds for some ISPs slowly contracting in late 2013, but deals made in 2014 with Comcast and AT&T caused speeds to perk right back up. Though seemingly trivial, uninterrupted movie streams serve as a prime example of why many are delighted to see all websites receive the same unfettered treatment.

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