It really bugs me when folks (like this guy, for example) end up sounding like apologists for truly appalling corporate behavior. I’m hoping that these folks have simply been blinded by corporate spinmeisters and simply haven’t thought through the situation completely.

In this particular case, Netflix is being forced by Comcast (and apparently some other broadband providers) to pay extra transmission fees simply to allow Comcast’s customers to access the Netflix video content that those customers have already paid for.

The way that Comcast spins this is that Netflix is pushing a ton of data onto Comcast’s network and that, of course, Netflix should pay for that. When put this way, it seems reasonable that Netflix should pay more. They are “using” more bandwidth, right?


In reality what’s happening is that Comcast’s customers are requesting to watch movies and TV shows that Netflix is providing. Those customers have paid Comcast for some amount of bandwidth and they’re simply attempting to use it. Sure all that Netflix data for all of those customers adds up, but it’s all within the Comcast-set bandwidth limits that are already in place. Again, this isn’t some random deluge of Netflix data; each video stream is heading towards a paying Comcast customer’s house.

And on the other side of the network, Netflix is paying its own ISPs handsomely for the enormous bandwidth and content delivery capacity to serve up the data that its customers are asking for.

In other words, both Netflix and Comcast’s customers have already paid for the bandwidth necessary to stream Netflix’s video content. What Comcast and these other ISPs are trying to do is charge again for that same bandwidth. Sneaky, eh?

Now of course, some folks will still be apologizing for Comcast: “Well Comcast can’t really send each of it’s customers a 10 Mbs video stream. If you add up all those streams that’s more bandwidth than they have available!” This is obviously true, but tell me how this is Netflix’s problem? If Comcast is oversubscribing its network (and it certainly is), then that’s between Comcast and its customers, not an external content provider. To solve this problem Comcast could build out more capacity, throttle its connections, charge more for faster connections, or a dozen other things. Netflix has nothing to do with it.

Anyway, it’s pretty obvious that this is simply a money grab by a (de facto) monopolist and that if Comcast can get away with this double-dipping with Netflix, it’s just a matter of time before they will try to extract a similar toll on all other content providers. From there it could be a slippery slope to a kind of ISP-run Toll Gate for any kind of Internet content — kind of like the way that the cable television part of Comcast’s business works.



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