Maybe not. But it does have some serious explaining to do, especially to its customers. A few days ago, Netflix admitted that it was the one slowing down its own video content major US wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T. This was after John Legere, the rather outspoken chief executive officer of T-Mobile, claimed a week earlier that both Verizon and AT&T offer lower resolution Netflix video content to customers compared T-Mobile. Adding controversy was the revelation that Netflix had been practicing this policy for five years now, and it excluded mobile video content viewers subscribed to T-Mobile and Sprint. What is worse is that Netflix never made any mention of this to its customers or to wireless carriers. Yikes.
Immediately after its admission, Netflix found itself dealing with flak from critics who accused the video content service provider of hypocrisy, considering that a couple of years ago, the company led a fight to strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to draft more updated net neutrality rules that would completely prevent Internet service providers from slowing down traffic under any case. Netflix had also called the FCC to make it mandatory for wireless carriers to be more open and transparent in how they go about delivering mobile network service to their respective subscribers.
Still, a number of people do believe that however screwed Netflix’s policy was, it was not actually in violation of the FCC’s net neutrality rules. As explained by Berin Szoka, the president of TechFreedom (an organization against the net neutrality rules), Netflix was not guilty of any wrongdoing, except for that part where it did not tell anybody about it. This sentiment is echoed by Harold Feld of Public Knowledge (a group advocating the net neutrality rules).
For those not in the know, the net neutrality rules that FCC established last year do not allow for the slowing down or blocking of web traffic, and mandates that service providers should be transparent about their practices to consumers. However, these rules were set for Internet service providers, not Internet content providers such as Netflix.
Some may argue that maybe, just maybe, Netflix was just trying to protect customers from going beyond their data allotments. After all, watching a couple of hours worth of Netflix video content in high resolution can quickly consume one’s whole month of data allotment. Netflix already allows subscribers to change settings in order to stream their data at either a higher or lower resolution. The problem is that Netflix has chosen to default to a lower resolution for all subscribers under two specific wireless carriers, and the company did this without informing the customers and the wireless carriers.
Netflix may not have violated net neutrality rules, but the FCC may still charge the company for deceptive and unfair business practices.
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