Netflix To Pai: 'Open Connect Is Not a Fast Lane’

Responds To FCC Commissioner's Concerns About Private CDN Program
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Netflix’s Open Connect private content delivery network does not create “fast lanes” to the Internet, the SVOD streaming leader said in letter to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai in response to his concerns about the program.

“Open Connect is not a fast lane,” Christopher Libertelli, Netflix’s vice president of global public policy, wrote, noting that the system does not prioritize Netflix data or otherwise disadvantage other Internet content, as it uses “best efforts” connections to reach Open Connect caches.

“To the contrary, Open Connect helps ISPs reduce costs and better manage congestion, which results in a better Internet experience for all end users,” Libertelli said, noting that only ISPs can speed up or slow down traffic via their last mile networks. “Since the beginning of this proceeding, Netflix has consistently opposed the Commission permitting ‘fast lanes’ in consumer Internet connections.”

Pai registered his concerns with Netflix on December 2, recognizing that Netflix has been a leading proponent of reclassifying Internet services under Title II as the FCC pursues new network neutrality rules. In part, Pai said he was concerned about suggestions that Netflix’s use of proprietary” caching appliances could impede open caching software.

Several ISPs use "transparent" caching platforms that help ISPs manage traffic from a variety of sources, eschewing single-purpose caching systems like Open Connect.

In the letter to Pai, Netflix said Open Connect uses open-source software and readily available hardware components and that information about the program is open to anyone. It also noted that it is active in efforts to develop open standards for streaming video, offering that it participates in World Wide Web Consortium and the Internet Engineering Task Force

Although several MVPDs, including Cablevision Systems, WideOpenWest, RCN and Grande Communications, among others, are part of Open Connect, others hold that they must join up in order to obtain authorization to offer Netflix on leased boxes. For example, Mediacom Communications, which uses a transparent caching system from Qwilt and offers a TiVo-powered platform, claimed earlier this year that Netflix uses set-top integration “as a bargaining chip in their Open Connect negotiations.”

Netflix also told Pai that Open Connect is more efficient and results in fewer outages and consumer complaints than proxy caching systems. Under the program, “Netflix bears all of the costs of providing Open Connect equipment to any ISP that chooses to participate in Open Connect,” the company added.

Netflix also said that it does not impede the use of proxy caches, but acknowledged that, to protect the privacy of its subscribers, the company “has obscured certain URL structures to protect our members from deep packet inspection tools deployed to gather data about what they watch online.”

Though Netflix prefers that ISP join Open Connect, it has reluctantly signed paid interconnection deals with a handful of major U.S. ISPs – Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon Communications (Bright House Networks is benefitting from the TWC/Netflix deal) -- and has urged the FCC to consider paid peering in the network neutrality rules discussion.