In a very real sense, Netflix and Comcast are competitors. In another
sense, they’re somewhat unwilling partners. Quite a few people who have
opted to cut the cable TV cord still use Comcast’s broadband service to
watch streaming video.
The two companies made that partnership official Sunday. In a brief press release
Netflix and Comcast announced “a mutually beneficial interconnection
agreement that will provide Comcast’s U.S. broadband customers with a
high-quality Netflix video experience for years to come.”
The release says the terms of the agreement, including whether money was exchanged, are not being made public.
That seems like a win/win deal, considering that Comcast customers have
been noticing decreased streaming quality in the past few months as
Netflix use has increased (it accounts for nearly one-third of all
Internet traffic in North America). Yet advocates for net neutrality—the
notion that no data on the Internet should be given preferential
treatment over any other data—see it as a major cause for concern. For
In January, a federal appeals court struck down the portion of the
Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules mandating that
Internet service providers treat all traffic equally. Some critics have
said that has already led to the slowing of Netflix streaming speeds by
its providers, including Verizon and Comcast.
Now, critics are saying that the Comcast/Netflix agreement sets a
precedent for whose traffic gets priority: the firms that can pay.
However, Netflix’s press release states that it “receives no
preferential network treatment under the multi-year agreement.”
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Whether the case constitutes the death knell of net neutrality is a debate that is sure to rage on: