They may have come up empty-handed at last night’s 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, but Netflix was thinking about the future on Monday. The future of broadband and Internet access that is. In a blistering petition to the FCC, the streaming service recommended that the proposed mega-merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable be denied. “The combined entity’s control over its interconnection arrangements, coupled with such an increase in size, would allow it to insert itself into the heart of all Internet commerce, disrupting innovation, reducing financing for edge providers, and foreclosing compelling services from ever reaching the light of day,” said Netflix in a filing submitted yesterday (read it here). The melding of the nation’s biggest and second-biggest providers of on-ramp access to the Internet “presents serious public interest harms stemming from the combined entity’s increased ability and incentive to harm providers of Internet content.”
Similar to past critiques of the merger from Netflix over who would control the pipes if the two were to become one and who could be discriminated against in the process, the dense redacted petition notes that “Comcast recently has shown that it is willing to go to great lengths to do so by manipulating Internet traffic at the interconnection points with its network to harm Netflix.” A weighty player in this debate, Netflix has been estimated to make up nearly 30% of all Internet traffic during peak hours. To that end, in late February, Netflix inked a deal with Comcast to ensure stable and fast broadband access. This came after its delivery speed on the provider appeared to be significantly slowing down, causing frequent delays and pauses for customer watching TV series and pics on its service. The seemingly very un-net neutrality agreement came just after the announcement of Comcast’s $45.2 billion purchase of TWC earlier this year.
Netflix weren’t happy about having to make that deal then and they are really not happy with what the consequences of the federal regulator giving the green light to Comcast and TWC now.
“Unsurprisingly, given their dominance in the cable television marketplace, the proposed merger would give Applicants the ability to turn a consumer’s Internet experience into something that more closely resembles cable television,” Netflix’s petition adds. “It would set up an ecosystem that calls into question what we to date have taken for granted: that a consumer who pays for connectivity to the Internet will be able to get the content she requests.”
Netflix’s petition for denial came just hours before the midnight deadline for the first round of comments on proposed multi-billion dollar merger. The next benchmarks are September 23, where comments in reply to the first round will have to come in and then October 8 for the last round of remarks on the matter. While Comcast hasn’t respond directly to Netflix’s petition, the company did do so indirectly in comments made in a statement over the support the merger has received before the FCC deadline. “We continue to be struck by the number of comments that raise industry-wide rather than transaction-specific issues, as well as the commenters who are seeking to use the transaction–review process to seek government support for parochial business interests that they could not otherwise achieve through other regulatory proceedings or in the competitive marketplace,” Comcast said today.
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