Netflix: We Support Title II

Title II opponents were buzzing Wednesday over the news that Netflix, which had pushed for strong network neutrality rules, apparently did not mean Title II strong. Not so, said Netflix.

At a technology and media conference sponsored by Morgan Stanley, Netflix CFO David Wells said that the company was "probably not" pleased that stronger net neutrality rules morphed into Title II, according to a report in Variety.

Netflix has been more focused on insuring the new order included interconnection, which it did, while always maintaining it wanted strong Internet protections overall. But it has also supported Title II as a way to achieve that.

Asked about Wells' comments, a company spokesperson reiterated its support for the FCC action.

"Netflix supports the FCC's action last week to adopt Title II in ensuring consumers get the Internet they paid for without interference by ISPs," said the spokesperson. "There has been zero change in our very well-documented position in support of strong net neutrality rules."

Asked if that meant the report was wrong or Wells was wrong, the spokesperson said they had not seen the transcript, that as they understood it, "David was trying to convey how our position evolved over time from preferring an industry solution to recognizing the need for a regulatory one."

The report of the seeming reversal was not lost on some cable operators, who bicycled the report of Wells' comments to reporters.

Free State Foundation President Randolph May took to the blogosphere to comment on what he characterized as Netflix's "we were only kidding" message to the FCC.

"Everyone knows that Netflix was a leading — if not the leading — proponent of Title II regulation," said "This must be a storyline for a very bad Netflix movie — I don't know whether it's a comedy or a tragedy.

"Thank the good Lord that the Commission always reserves 'editorial privileges' to revise, even substantially, its orders before public release. Maybe there's time to rewrite the whole nightmare scenario!"

“Netflix has spun a lot of tales during this FCC proceeding," said AT&T senior EVP Jim Cicconi. "But it’s awfully hard to believe their CFO would go into a major investor conference and misspeak on an issue supposedly so crucial to their future.  More likely he had an attack of candor.  At least ’til his company’s lobbyists got hold of him.  I’m sure they’ll also have some terrific spin to explain Netflix’s data cap deal in Australia.”

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.