THE UNITED STATES Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans to monitor traffic between ISPs and Netflix after a row over streaming quality spilled over into legal threats.
Verizon and Comcast have deals in place with Netflix allowing it direct access to their servers, avoiding the normal peering infrastructure of the internet.
Netflix, which has repeatedly called for the preservation of net neutrality, has openly admitted that it believes it is paying under duress, with CEO Reed Hastings saying on the company blog that the ISPs are charging extra "because they can".
"When an ISP sells a consumer a 10 or 50Mbps internet package, the consumer should get that rate, no matter where the data is coming from," Reed added.
Recently, the video streaming service began informing customers when it thought that their viewing experience was being degraded by Verizon's infrastructure through on-screen captions, which Netflix removed after Verizon threatened legal action.
Now, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, has said that the commission will gather data on the way Verizon handled Netflix traffic during negotiations for the direct access deal, with many customers believing that their viewing was being deliberately throttled by the ISP.
Wheeler said, "We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I."
The move can be seen as an attempt by Wheeler to quell fears about the future of the internet in the light of the FCC's plans to gut net neutrality rules at the end of a 120 day public consultation and deliberation period that is already underway.
The purring noises from Washington seem designed to put customers' minds at ease that even if the internet is de-neutralised, the FCC will still regulate it appropriately somehow. µ