Netflix denied that it was slowing video down on mobile networks, in a Net Neutrality filing to TRAI yesterday. In the filing, Netflix said that “our Data Saver feature was created to allow consumers to control how much data they use when streaming on cellular networks.” They added, “This is different from how Internet service providers might ‘throttle’ data to free up bandwidth.”
Last year, Netflix disclosed that it had been capping the video quality (bitrate) on some mobile networks in the US, like AT&T and Verizon, while leaving other networks, like T-Mobile, uncapped. Outside the US, they said that they had capped the video bitrate for all mobile operators. They did this to “protect our members from overage charges” after they exceeded their data limits. Following that disclosure, they addded a feature to allow subscribers to choose video quality while streaming from mobile networks.
Multiple news outlets interpreted that as Netflix “slowing down” video streams, as opposed to a limit on video bitrate. (every letter in the word ‘interpreted’ links to a separate news article that makes the same conclusion)
Netflix declined to comment further on their filing.
Doubling down on CDN defense
Netflix continued defending Content Delivery Networks, which Internet companies use to reduce the speed and distance of data transfer around the world. They reiterated that CDNs are not a Net Neutrality violation as they don’t “prioritise or otherwise advantage certain traffic over others”. Netflix does not want CDNs to be regulated by Net Neutrality rules, and made an extensive case for this in their original submission to TRAI.
Earlier this month, we reported that Netflix had rolled out its Open Connect CDN in five Indian cities. Open Connect consists of local caches that Netflix directly installs in an Internet provider’s network. These caches have been installed in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune. They’re updated overnight, and subscribers on participating ISPs’ networks can stream regionally popular Netflix shows directly from the cache.
As Open Connect expands in India, it is important to Netflix that regulation does not come in the way.
“No exemptions for paid prioritization”
In the filing, Netflix reiterated their stance against paid prioritization. With paid prioritization, an ISP can speed up certain applications and websites that pay them to do so. Some responses to the consultation paper said that this rule shouldn’t apply to video content.
“Any exemption to this rule would empower gate-keepers to give an advantage to video content provided by platforms that can afford to pay for prioritisation”, Netflix’s filing argued. It could also give an unfair advantage to telco-owned services, it added.