Verizon is planning to increase the speed with which its FiOS Internet subscribers can upload content to the Web to reverse the service’s slowing expansion, the Wall Street Journal reports. The speed bump is expected to be finished by the end of this Fall, and Verizon told the Journal that 95 percent of consumers will receive the update automatically. Maybe then Verizon could address the real problem with its service: the way it handles data from content companies like Netflix.
Netflix has alleged on multiple occasions that Verizon is deliberately throttling the speed with which videos are streamed to consumers in an effort to extort additional fees from Netflix and other video streaming companies. It even went so far as to show consumers whose videos were interrupted that congestion on Verizon’s network was to blame, at least until Verizon sent over a cease-and-desist letter saying that Netflix is unfairly blaming Verizon for all of its problems.
Things escalated when Verizon published a blog post explaining why its network isn’t to blame for Netflix’s video streaming woes. As telecommunications provider Level 3’s vice president of media and communications, Mark Taylor, explained in his response to Verizon’s argument:
But, here’s the other interesting thing also shown in [a Verizon diagram explaining Netflix's issue]. This congestion only takes place between Verizon and network providers chosen by Netflix. The providers that Netflix does not use do not experience the same problem. Why is that? Could it be that Verizon does not want its customers to actually use the higher-speed services it sells to them? Could it be that Verizon wants to extract a pound of flesh from its competitors, using the monopoly it has over the only connection to its end-users to raise its competitors’ costs?
YouTube joined the fight earlier this month when it started comparing the performance of different Internet service providers and showing consumers those comparisons whenever a video takes too long to load. (Those comparisons also show just how little competition between ISPs there is in rural areas, but that’s another issue entirely.) Its messages aren’t as direct as Netflix’s have been, but they still place the blame on ISPs instead of on video streaming companies.
A week later, the Internet Association, a group consisting of Netflix and YouTube and dozens of other tech companies, asked the Federal Communications Commission to prevent ISPs from collecting additional fees from video streaming companies. The agency might not do anything about the fees, as it’s danced around the issue in the past, but the Internet Association’s plea for help shows that tech companies aren’t going to give up this particular fight any time soon.
But Verizon shouldn’t worry. I’m sure that making it easier to upload some photos or videos is going to make consumers forget about this very public dispute with some of the most popular technology companies on the planet. It’s not like anyone spends hours binge-watching movies or music videos or anything. All Verizon needs to do is wait for all of this to just blow over.