Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Netflix at High Noon

High Noon, the classic cowboy film, epitomises the ultimate showdown. It's ironic that the leading provider of streaming films and TV programmes is squaring up on the virtual high street flexing its fingers above the pearl handled pistols of public opinion.

Facing Netflix are the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that it streams its content down. It is thought that streaming content accounts for about one third of all bandwidth in the US and some ISPs have been rumbling that they want a slice of the fiscal action resulting from all of this activity.

Or in plain English, they can see a successful business using their infrastructure as a conduit. Netflix wouldn't exist without the ISPs, they point out, which is a truism. Perhaps they have themselves picked up the odd customer by the utility that Netflix has provided, is another. In fact, the rise and rise of bandwidth is only just keeping pace with the continually rising usage of bandwidth by consumers. However this general uptick in utilisation along with the reciprocal rolling out of faster and deeper networks appears to be symbiotic at the least.

So the suggestion that companies that absorb large amounts of bandwidth should compensate the ISPs or face losing access to north American ISP subscribers has rankled Netflix. They are defending the concept of net neutrality, a concept that has been embedded in principle since the dawn of the internet age.

Of course the net has been robustly exploited for gain since the beginning of internet time, and you could argue that is what Netflix has done, having shed its DVD mailing service long ago in support of internet streaming. But it is supplying what people want and that is why they in turn are shelling out significant sums of money each month for access to faster broadband. The ISPs woo us with offers of faster access and unlimited downloads (subject to fair usage limits, so strictly not unlimited in any sense of the word) and we change sides based on the best deals available. To try and leverage extra cash for buying what they offered to snare our business is disingenuous to say the least.

Netflix are squaring up to the ISPs like the town Sheriff facing down the bad guys, calling on the good people populating the internet to back them. I'm up to join a posse, and have a virtual neckerchief at the ready. I only have one question - how come High Noon isn't available for streaming on Netflix? Some familiarisation training would be handy right now.

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