AT&T Outraged at Netflix 'Throttling'

AT&T was firing back at Netflix Thursday after a Wall Street Journal report that Netflix had admitted to degrading the quality of its service over AT&T and Verizon, but not T-Mobile or Sprint, because, the Journal reported, Netflix called their policies of slowing network connections rather than charging user fees when subs exceeded their usage limits "more consumer friendly.

"We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," said AT&T senior executive VP Jim Cicconi.

AT&T and Verizon had been in the hot seat last week after being accused of throttling Netflix's service. Now the loafer is on the other foot.

The FCC is currently investigating AT&T and Verizon over their approach to helping consumers not exceed their data caps--so-called zero rating plans. Critics argue that is favoring the content that is zero rated, while the companies argue it is a way to help subs avoid usage caps while consuming high-bandwidth video.

"When Netflix pointed the finger at ATT & Verizon it had three fingers pointing back it itself," said Adonis Hoffman, chairman of Business in the Public Interest and former chief of staff to FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "Throttling traffic without notifying the customer is a violation of the principles of net neutrality 101, and they failed. Even though edge providers are technically not covered, transparency is a best practice."

There have long been rumblings, sometimes not so quietly in the case of Comcast, alleging Netflix intentionally congested traffic to wired ISPs in peering disputes.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.