Netflix Gaffe Subtweet By AT&T Angered This #Brand

Here’s how bad our nation’s net neutrality discussion has become: The #brands are now taking part. This is not a positive development.

To rewind: Netflix CFO David Wells said something that, as reported, incensed nearly everyone alive, regardless of their take on net neutrality regulations:

“Were we pleased it pushed to Title II? Probably not. […] We were hoping there might be a non-regulated solution.”

Sounds spicy, eh? Given Netflix’s long advocacy for not just net neutrality, but strong net neutrality rules, and even specifically use of Title II, to have a senior executive from the company say that was jarring.

Netflix sprung to its own defense, issuing a statement that included the CFO’s full quote, including audio. I present to you that copy (emphasis ours):

“So, over the last year, we’ve been very pleased that we’ve been able to rise the issues beyond that narrow piece out into the public consciousness, and I think that, that has come before. Were we pleased that it pushed to Title II, probably not, right? I mean, we were hoping that, there might be a non-regulated solution to it. But it seems like companies that are pursuing their commercial interests including us have to arrive at something like that. So we’re super pleased that there is now a notion, at least a vehicle, for a complaint where if we are in the position we were in 12 to 18 months ago, where we can show you what it looks like if you’re a subscriber on one ISP versus another. The notion of “well we’re paying this one” and that these people are getting better service, even though they’re both paying their consumer price for bandwidth. So I would say we are very pleased with what’s been accomplished. You know when you’re successful as the ISPs are at providing a service. Essentially Internet has become a utility. If you think about people’s willingness to drop their broadband, I think there’s been some studies that they’re willing to drop many other things including buying milk before they dropped their broadband. That’s a pretty strong indicator that you’ve got something that has become, you know, a utility. And in our opinion it was very important to protect those notions.”

That is a far more nuanced comment than was originally reported, and one that shows that Netflix came to a conclusion that Internet access was indeed a utility, implying support for Title II.

So naturally this has become a fracas in which some are claiming that Netflix is a hypocrite. At the same time, the Netflix comment led to the following comment from AT&T, so the situation is not a complete loss:

“Netflix has spun a lot of tales during this FCC proceeding. 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.”

And then, the following:

You can now consider yourself caught up.

To summarize: An executive at a company long in favor of net neutrality said something that people misconstrued and was quickly corrected, leading to a situation in which a rival firm took the out-of-context gaffe as a way to drive political points, to which a brand about a fake political show responded with snark.

If you hate the Internet, just unplug your router and go for a walk.