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Netflix Comcast Deal Skirts Net Neutrality Issue To Improve Performance

Posted by: , 14:08 AEDT, Sat March 1, 2014

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Netflix and Comcast come to an agreement to solve performance issues, but despite reports to the contrary, this deal has nothing to do with net neutrality
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Image/Photo Credit: Netflix

The recently announced deal between Netflix and Comcast has again shone the spotlight on net neutrality only a couple of weeks after a landmark decision which saw the neutrality principle being defeated in court.

Net neutrality is a set of principles that govern how much control ISPs have over content delivery in the last mile to users, whether they have the right to give preference to certain types of data over others. Net neutrality advocates believe ISPs have no right to give preferential treatment to certain types of content, while ISPs believe they are the gatekeepers of content and should be allowed to charge more for certain types of content (especially those that consume a lot of their network resources). When net neutrality was defeated in court last month, the biggest fear rising among users was that ISPs would soon start throttling traffic from popular sites like Netflix, unless Netflix and others bandwidth heavy sites pay ISPs to ease the congestion.

This latest deal, which sees Netflix pay Comcast to solve performance issues may seem like the inevitable conclusion arising from the death of net neutrality, but in reality, this deal is about something else. Instead of being about the last mile, this deal is all about the connections between Netflix and Comcast. The previous arrangement saw third-parties, such as Cogent, helping to route traffic between Netflix and Comcast, and this is where congestion has been occurring over the last few month. The growth of Netflix has seen these connections reach and exceed capacity, and traffic slowdowns are the inevitable result.

Under the new arrangement, Comcast will connect directly to Netflix's servers (at a third party datacenter), and Netflix will pay Comcast (as opposed to the likes of Cogent), for traffic that the ISP delivers to users. This will improve Netflix performance and see Comcast earn extra revenue, money that can be used to further improve their infrastructure to handle extra traffic expected from the likes of Netflix.

As the last mile delivery arrangement is unchanged, net neutrality is not an issue in this deal. And if other ISPs strike similar deals with Netflix, this solution may help to avert net neutrality issues and still allow content providers and ISPs to resolve disputes over performance issues.


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