Netflix Argues Against Internet Fast Lanes As GOP Opposition To Net Neutrality Looms

Netflix today published a short blog post, making its case against the creation of so-called “Internet fast-lanes.” Fast lanes, also known by the more technical term “paid prioritization,” could allow Internet providers to sell digital content companies faster access to consumers.

Opponents of fast lanes, such as Netflix, often argue that if fast lanes were codified into the regulatory structure of America, they would grant incumbent companies advantage over smaller firms, the latter of which might not be able to pay for faster speeds.

With reports indicating that the incoming Republican majority in both houses of Congress intend to combat net neutrality regulations that the FCC is widely expected to vote on in February, the battle lines of the issue are becoming more clear. Separately, the FCC’s forthcoming rules are expected to come under legal fire from Internet providers.

Here’s the core of Netflix’s argument:

Allowing fast lanes gives ISPs a perverse incentive to boost revenues by allowing their networks to congest. It also gives them outsize power to pick winners and losers on the Internet. Those who can’t pay for fast lanes will suffer, entrenching incumbents while undermining the innovative power of the Internet. While the largest ISPs have said they’re not interested in creating fast lanes, one need only look at how they have sought to monetize their network interconnection points to get a glimpse of the future.

Netflix now pays a number of American Internet providers to connect directly to their network, which has proven controversial; some advocates for net neutrality think that such commercial arrangements are contrary to the spirit of net neutrality itself.

For the time being, the market is in a holding pattern. Until the FCC starts to leak the outline of its final plan that it will vote on next month, how it will be challenged, by whom the most intensely, is not clear.