FCC doesn’t care about Netflix mobile throttling, declines to launch investigation
When you pay Netflix to connect you with streaming on-demand entertainment each month, do you assume you’re getting the same experience as every other customer? Of course; why wouldn’t you think that? So it came as a big surprise last week when we learned that Netflix had taken it upon itself to artificiality limit the bandwidth made available to users accessing Nextflix over AT&T and Verizon wireless networks, throttling connections to a mere 600kbps as part of some self-imposed role to help “protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps.” If that sounded all sorts of wrong to you, you’re not alone, and we’ve been wondering what might be done about it. It’s now becoming clear that the only solution we’re going to find will be one coming from Netflix itself, as the FCC decides that the issue is outside its jurisdiction.
FCC chair Tom Wheeler explains that while the agency does indeed have net neutrality rules, those rules regulate behavior by the ISPs (including wireless providers) that deliver content to our devices, not the sources of that content themselves. As such a source, Netflix is free to single out groups of users based on how they receive their data and treat those connections differently.
So, what’s to be done? Well, an easy technical solution might be to bounce all your Netflix traffic through a VPN, obscuring the fact that you’re consuming it on an AT&T or Verizon wireless connection, but given Netflix’s recent war on all things VPN, we can’t guarantee you’d see the results you wanted that way.
Perhaps the more direct solution is simply to let your thoughts be heard to Netflix itself. You pay good money for both Netflix and your high-speed wireless connection, so who other than you should say how you use that data? Contact Netflix and make it clear that its practices are unacceptable. If it comes to it, you might even want to take your business elsewhere. Maybe it’s worth contacting the FTC and arguing that Netflix’s practices are deceptive and unfair. But for now, at least, the FCC doesn’t have your back in this fight.