Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings has urged regulators to adopt strong net neutrality rules, so that the company can avoid having to pay out big money in peering deals, such as the one struck with Comcast recently.
While the Comcast agreement didn't deal directly with net neutrality, the end result, according to Hastings, is the same - that companies like Netflix will continually be at the mercy of ISPs to pay a "toll" to ensure their data reaches net users without any hiccups.
While the courts have sided with ISPs and all but effectively struck down net neutrality on the argument that free market competition will make regulations unnecessary, Hastings disagrees.
"Internet access is often bundled with other services making it challenging to switch ISPs. It is this lack of consumer choice that leads to the need for strong net neutrality," Hastings writes on the official blog for Netflix.
And while Netflix can afford the toll tax to the likes of Comcast, Hastings fears for the future of an ever increasing toll, and for smaller players that don't have the leverage of Netflix.
Hastings also reiterated Netflix's strong support for net neutrality. Despite caving in to ISP demands, Hastings say that the payment to Comcast and others will only be for interconnections, which will not place Netflix in a more or less favorable position when it comes to getting data delivered to customers in the last mile (which is the crux of the net neutrality debate).
"Netflix believes strong net neutrality is critical, but in the near term we will in cases pay the toll to the powerful ISPs to protect our consumer experience. When we do so, we don’t pay for priority access against competitors, just for interconnection," Hastings adds.
In conclusion, Hastings warned the major ISPs not to take advantage of the demand for services like Netflix to extract ever increasing tolls, just because they can.
"Some big ISPs are extracting a toll because they can -- they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay ... they should realize it is in their long term interest to back strong net neutrality," says Hastings, before adding, "While in the short term Netflix will in cases reluctantly pay large ISPs to ensure a high quality member experience, we will continue to fight for the Internet the world needs and deserves."