Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai today released an open letter to Netflix, claiming that while it has publicly supported the idea of net neutrality, it has been simultaneously working in private to create its own Internet “fast lanes”–a project anathema to its stated principles.
The letter, sent to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, calls attention to Netflix’s decision not to join the Streaming Video Alliance, a group of digital video providers that want to create open technical standards for streaming video. While Comcast, Fox, Major League Baseball, and Yahoo have joined the alliance, Netflix and YouTube have remained conspicuously absent.
Pai alleges that Netflix has been testing a custom delivery system (called a “caching appliance”) on Internet service providers’ (ISPs’) networks that would bypass any open standards and prioritize Netflix content over other video providers. Caching appliances allow for copies of streaming files to be saved on local servers, boosting video performance for users. “If … ISPs were to install Netflix’s proprietary caching appliance instead [of open caching appliances available to all], Netflix’s videos would run the equivalent of a 100-yard dash while its competitors’ videos would have to run a marathon [to reach their customers],” Pai wrote.
“These allegations raise an apparent conflict with Netflix’s advocacy for strong net neutrality regulations,” Pai concluded before asking Netflix for a response. So far, Netflix has not publicly commented on the letter.