Netflix, the Web’s hottest video service, is voicing the worry that many media related newsgroups have that bandwidth providers could abuse their position as the gatekeepers of Internet access and purposely damage competing Web-video distributors.
With a strong voice coming from USENET newsgroups, Netflix has echoed the cause and is asking the FCC to look a little closer at its proposed net neutrality rules. They warn of a major loophole that would allow Comcast (especially if its NBCU merger is approved and other major cable and satellite companies) a major advantage in giving their own content a delivery edge.
Netflix’s comments to the FCC, first reported by The Washington Post on Monday, is a signal that the company sees a showdown coming with Comcast, Time Warner, and other broadband providers over the distribution of online video. According to the FCC filing:
“Netflix believes that the codification of the existing network neutrality principles, together with the addition of nondiscrimination and transparency, create an effective framework for preserving an open Internet. These rules will allow all parts of the industry — network operators, consumer electronics manufacturers, and edge providers of content, applications, and services — to continue to innovate at a rapid pace, unburdened by the unnecessary intervention of network operators or government regulators.”
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts responded in House and Senate hearings last week that the company has had no incentive to withhold NBC content from competitors. But did not speak specifically about how content would be offered and if (as one competing ISP said) the company would make NBC shows and movies available at such steep prices and conditions that it would be difficult for competitors to lease rights to the content.
Cable companies are seeing services like Netflix, which often are delivered “over-the-top” on devices like Sony’s PS3 and other gaming consoles, on Blu-ray players and, increasingly, on Internet-connected televisions, as a major threat. The recent merger between Comcast and NBC may seem imminent, but getting the ground rules in place for what would be allowed by these two media goliaths could severely impact the content available online in general. USENET newsgroup posts about the matter tend to genuinely disapprove about the move and believe that due to the history of both companies, scrutiny on the details need to be addressed.