The Content Delivery Battle: Netflix vs Verizon

Recently, some Netflix users have started to see error messages blaming ISPs for lower quality video streams. The error screen has been showing some Verizon users the following message:

Netflix vs Verizon

Netflix claims that customers seeing this message are, “not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider.” They say that this is part of their strategy to provide increasing transparency relating to speeds and bandwidth, along with their Netflix ISP Speed Index.

Verizon, on the other hand, is threatening to sue Netflix. Verizon has issued a cease and desist order claiming that, “There is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues with respect to playback...  are attributable solely to the Verizon network.”

Of course, this is all part of a bigger content delivery battle, the net neutrality regulation that the FCC is considering. According to Sandvine Corp., a Canadian networking services company, Netflix is responsible for 34% of data transmissions in North America during peak times. As a result, ISPs are looking to Netflix, and similar companies, for payment in return for this high usage, while Netflix insists that customers are already paying for their internet packages and that further payment for bandwidth is unreasonable. It’s too early to tell how this situation will play out, but this issue is not likely going away anytime soon.

One potential way to solve this problem is to offload some content from the traditional CDN server model. An interesting alternative is Peer-to-Peer (“P2P”) data delivery. A P2P mesh, on top of HTTP servers, could help users in crowded networks download faster because P2P systems can control the path of the download stream. These systems can stay inside of an ISP or choose alternative routes to reach a specific ISP. Moreover, in P2P systems, as more users consume the content there is a greater capacity to deliver it, which can be essential during peak times. P2P platforms serve content from wherever it is consumed and connect users everywhere, which could further boost download speeds. With both the efficiencies of P2P and the net neutrality / cost battle surrounding ISPs (and, therefore, HTTP) in mind, content providers may turn to this type of hybrid system and, thereby, help revolutionize content delivery.