A quarrel ensnaring Netflix, ISPs and the “transit providers" that interconnect with them underscore the complexities in the debate over Net neutrality that is pending before the FCC.
A fundamental question continues to divide some of the most prominent U.S. communications companies: When a subscriber of the nation’s biggest streaming video service has difficulty watching a movie or television show, who is to blame for the connectivity conundrum? An ISP such as Verizon? The transit provider (Level 3, for instance) that interconnects with an ISP? Or Netflix, whose massive U.S. subscriber base now exceeds 36 million?
Depending on the source, the answer differs drastically. The communications industry, at least, agrees on a finer point: that the connectivity problems trace back to where networks between an ISP and transit provider meet.
In a blog written in March, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings observed that a lack of adequate connectivity inhibited Netflix’s performance, “subjecting consumers who pay a lot of money for high-speed Internet to high buffering rates, long wait times and poor video quality."
More recently on the blogosphere, Level 3 and Verizon have engaged in a war of words over whom is responsible for such degradation in service.
Verizon claimed Level 3 could pay for connections to its network but has chosen to rely on free peering arrangements. According to Verizon, Level 3 is sending far more traffic to Verizon than Verizon is sending to Level 3, creating an imbalance that is not contemplated under the peering agreement.
Rather than purchase needed capacity, Level 3 is insisting Verizon “add capacity to the existing peering link for additional downstream traffic even though the traffic is already wildly out of balance," wrote David Young, vice president of Verizon federal regulatory affairs, in a blog.