What Netflix Paying Comcast Means

Neflix and Comcast Logo on a ScreenYesterday something terrifying came to my attention. Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast to give their customers better streaming service. And I can hear some of you cheering right now. “This is great, my Netflix quality has been crap lately!” It’s not great. This is the beginning of consequences from legislation being passed that renders Net Neutrality obsolete.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the idea that any website on the internet gets delivered as fast to your device as any other device. Not saying that every page will load at the same speed mind you (code, servers, location all play into page speed), but if all things were the same the sites would be delivered just as fast.  What Netflix is doing by paying Comcast, is they are making sure their content gets delivered faster.

Why Would Netflix Pay Comcast?

Now, Netflix is a special case. They make up nearly 30% of all North American internet traffic. Let that sink in for a minute. That is an insane amount of data. Amazon video is 1.48%, and Hulu is 1.15% for comparison. So yes, Netflix is a fringe case. But it sets a dangerous precedent. That companies can buy their way to better performance, and by doing so, crush out their competitors.

What are the Consequences?

This terrifies me as a small website owner. What chance do I have? I can’t pay to get my traffic prioritized. It also terrifies me as a citizen of the internet. The internet has always been this amazing place where everyone had an equal chance to get their site discovered. Some kids in a garage in California could knock Yahoo! out of the top search spot. Some students in a Harvard dorm room could make MySpace non-existent. But what if Yahoo! could have paid enough to make their site blazingly fast that Google wasn’t practical? Or MySpace could make their photos load leaps and bounds faster than Facebook? Hope you like .gif backgrounds.

What Can You Do?

The most important thing you can do is pay attention. Follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Save the Internet. Call your legislators when there’s a law that’s being passed that threatens the internet. Yes, call. Online petitions are a dime a dozen, and with us doing silly things like petitioning to deport Justin Bieber, they’re a joke. A phone call or actual letter goes so much further.  And hope that they listen to us.

Update: I wrote this last night based on the articles I had read at that point. Since then, more details have come out. They’re paying now for direct access to the Comcast network, instead of routing through middle-man servers. Regardless, it sets a dangerous precedent. (And thank you to our wonderful readers for keeping up on this and letting me know as this story evolves.) There’s also a really good discussion on my personal Facebook page (because I have really smart friends), the post is public so you can read it if you so choose.

4 Responses to “What Netflix Paying Comcast Means”
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