So late last week, Netflix made an admission that has stirred the waters of net neutrality once again. Apparently they have been capping their own video delivery at 600kbps for AT&T and Verizon mobile customers but not T-Mobile or Sprint, and not telling anybody.
Now, some are arguing that this is not a net neutrality violation. They’re right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t moronic and completely cringe-worthy and totally relevant. The effect on performance was that Netflix customers saw crappier videos on two mobile networks by its own hand over a time when Netflix has been at odds with those same two carriers over issues of throttling and fast lanes and paid prioritization.
It’s a bit like a captured criminal ramming his own face into a door while claiming police brutality. While such a plan may work in the short term, when the surveillance footage undermines the case his position is crippled when it comes to challenging the real thing later. The fact that one nominally has the right to beat oneself against a door if one wants to isn’t helpful.
Netflix says it was doing this to save its customers from blasting through data caps, which would have been fine if it told anyone they were doing it. They will now be making self-capping optional, which will turn this into a feature that they probably should have had a long time ago.
Verizon, AT&T, and their anti-net-neutrality allies spent the last few days gleefully savaging Netflix for its offense, but saving plenty of ammunition for later I’m sure. With the current regime of network neutrality now before the courts, they’ll be playing this for all its worth and I can’t really blame them.
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