Netflix has criticised plans that would allow broadband giants to charge tech companies for access to their networks, stating that the move would harm investment and innovation in the industry.
In a response to an Ofcom consultation on “net neutrality”, the giant urged the regulator to exercise “extreme caution and great consideration for the risks”, according to The Telegraph.
It comes as broadband companies raised concerns about the strain placed on their networks from streaming services such as Netflix and Disney.
‘Net neutrality’, or ‘open internet’, is the principle of ensuring that users of the internet can control what they see and do online – not the internet service provider (ISP) that connects them to the internet.
As a result of Brexit, broadband firms (ISPs), such as BT, have tried to move away from the European Union’s strict net neutrality regime, which requires broadband providers not to discriminate based on different types of traffic. The logic is that it leaves households subsidising a minority of bandwidth-heavy internet users.
By moving away from this regime, it would allow networks to charge the streaming giants for special treatment, such as faster speeds or excluding them from data caps; it would also allow networks to prioritise services such as work video calls and emergency services.
Netflix wrote in a statement: “Internet development, content and the digital economy in the UK is demonstrably a success story. By all these measures the UK’s success shows that the current framework is not only fit for purpose, but working well. Strong net neutrality rules allow end users to choose the services they want to use online, instead of being constrained by the limitations of a gatekeeper in between.”
Netflix emphasised that any change would be about providing rent for ISP rather than bringing about any meaningful change. In fact, it stated that it would discourage investment.
Any overhaul by Ofcom, the regulator, would need legislative changes.
Ofcom have been reviewing the current regime, especially in light of the shift to home working, and an update is expected in Spring.
A potential issue with charging online service providers a fee is that many companies like Amazon Prime or Disney+ are likely to pass that fee onto customers.
This could, in turn, lead to a technological divide, with some across the country not having access to essential online services. For instance, data from Nesta, a UK innovation foundation, already suggested that a million adults across Wales and Scotland struggle to afford sufficient access to the internet.
The BBC have also aired concerns about any changes, stating that it could impact value for their licence fee payers, potentially needing to divert licence fee income away from British content investment and more towards ISPs for access to audiences.