Netflix Is In The Power Position Now In The War For Net Neutrality

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[Commentary] When Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is done, the Internet service providers will once again be free to throttle traffic from competitors, and sites or services they don’t like, or charge services like Netflix a “toll” for the privilege of being delivered to customers at the full speed the customers are paying for. It seems to me, though, that the power dynamic has shifted, and that Netflix actually holds all the cards now—at least in areas with more than one ISP to choose from.

Netflix is not a customer of the ISP. It doesn’t owe the ISP anything. The customers of Netflix are paying for a service, and the ISP—as far as I can tell—has no right to intentionally impede or infringe on the delivery of that service. Let’s say they do, though—because they probably will. Does Netflix need to pay the extortion? No. Not really. Netflix is in the power position. If Comcast (or some other ISP) wants to try and extort money from Netflix, Netflix could flip it around and just block its service from using that ISP. The ISP is just a pipeline to the internet, so as long as it’s a relatively fast and relatively reliable connection, there’s no reason to be loyal to a specific ISP. If I were a Comcast customer and Netflix pulled its service from working over the Comcast network, I would be an AT&T customer by the next day—or vice versa.

I focused on Netflix because Netflix is a very popular service and there is already precedent for ISPs extorting “tolls” from Netflix for the privilege of delivering the service the customers already paid for, but this logic applies to major sites in general. What if Google decides to be an AT&T exclusive, or Facebook chooses to only work with Comcast?

[Tony Bradley is the Senior Manager of Content Marketing for Alert Logic.]

Netflix Is In The Power Position Now In The War For Net Neutrality