I am writing to offer a slightly different perspective on the recent agreement between Comcast and Netflix that was characterized negatively in Jordan Weissmann’s March 25 column (“Titans Buy the Fast Lanes on the Net,” Perspectives).
The referenced agreement was designed to ensure that Netflix customers who receive their broadband via Comcast can view Netflix content as intended by the producers (without random pauses). Rather than being a sure-fire way to create Internet slow lanes, as Mr. Weissmann seems to fear, this agreement is an example of how a revolutionary technology (in this case streaming digital content) can create empowered consumers who demand higher levels of service. In turn, these consumers will create new and growing markets, driving additional investment from the broadband and digital content communities alike, ultimately leading to more innovations for the consumer.
As has been widely reported, Netflix customers now account for more than 30 percent of all prime time Internet traffic. This revolution is consumer led, with individuals deciding the timing and nature of their viewing content, rather than relying on ratings-driven program line-ups from the major networks and others. For the first time in our history, customers have the ability to access thousands of movies, TV shows and family programs that can be viewed when, where and however desired by the customer (iPads, desktops, SmartTVs).
Both Netflix and Comcast recognize that their own success depends on delivering this content as it is intended. For that reason, the recent agreement between Comcast and Netflix should be appropriately characterized as consumer driven, rather than as an abusive business practice designed to reduce the quality of broadband for everyone else. This is just not the case.
Just the opposite is happening. As innovators such as Apple, Amazon Prime and Google develop new ways for consumers to customize their own viewing experiences, the value of high-quality broadband will become even more essential to even more U.S. consumers, thereby creating stronger demand for broadband and driving additional investment from broadband providers as they look to serve more and more consumers.
President and CEO
Pittsburgh Technology Council