Pai Probes Netflix On Streaming Policy

Has Concerns That Netflix Is Not Participating In Open Standards
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FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has registered his concerns over reports about Netflix's Open Connect program with company CEO Reed Hastings.

In a letter dated Tuesday (Dec. 2), Pai cited articles reporting that Netflix had chosen not to participate in developing open standards for streaming video and had at least "tested" measures that would "undermine" that effort.

He said he was specifically concerned about suggestions Netflix has impeded open caching software. "In other words," he said, "if standards collectively agreed upon by much of the industry cannot identify and correctly route Netflix traffic, those standards ultimately are unlikely to be of much benefit to digital video customers."

He also pointed to Netflix' Open Connect program of giving ISPs resident proprietary caching devices, rather than open caching versions, to help handle its video traffic load (which can account for a third of Internet traffic). "If ISPs were to install open caching appliances throughout their networks, all video content providers--including Netflix--could compete on a level playing field. If, however, ISPs were to install Netflix's proprietary caching appliance instead, Netflix's videos would run the equivalent of a 100-yard dash while its competitors' videos would have to run a marathon."

Pai points out that Netflix has been a leading proponent of reclassifying Internet access under Title II, saying that it was necessary to prevent so-called fast lanes. Given that allegiance to a free and open Internet, he said, he was surprised to learn of the allegations that Netflix "has been working to effectively secure "fast lanes" for its own content on ISP's networks at the expense of its competitors."

Pai wants a response to the allegations by Dec. 16.

A Netflix spokesperson was not available for comment at press time.