Does Netflix Have Amnesia?

I’m paying for Netflix and I’m paying for Internet connectivity, why do I care if they pay each other for faster service? Actually why aren’t they?

In our instant gratification society that loves to time shift onto our time schedule I’m a fan of smart TV options; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu are a few and there are plenty more for those who love options. I marvel at the programing options I have at the push of a button.

So the dialog spurred recently by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings that he wants the FCC to insist his company’s products are delivered without dedicated network facilities to handle the vast amount of traffic Netflix delivers to people like me who pay a subscription for his service baffles me.

Netflix was brilliant at their initial delivery service in the 1990s and 2000s; DVDs were so efficiently delivered to the home, in part because of the investment Netflix made in regional distribution centers, that the patented red envelope seemed to arrive instantly. Netflix was so good at this process because they constantly honed the delivery system; so what makes on-line delivery any different?

My Internet Service Provider streams my Netflix content, which means no DVD to scratch, break, lose, or return, so isn’t this major improvement in the delivery system worth the cost of key interconnection point agreements to keep the Netflix content closer to the customer?

Netflix data shows they can predict the next item you want to view 75% of the time. Back in the day when they were using the US Postal Service to deliver DVDs, this predictive algorithm meant they had DVDs I wanted to watch stored at a physical location relatively close to me, making the physical delivery fast and seemingly instant.   So, as a loving customer I ask – why grumble about taking the same concept into the digital domain and keeping content closer to the customer?

I ask the question because Netflix is the most favored example of my friends and family who do not spend time thinking about network management but do read headline-grabbing news and apparently watch John Oliver.

The idea of a digital version of the red envelope delivery service – allowing the most watched content to reside closer to subscribers – means less network hops which means faster delivery of the digital bits that come together on my TV such as House of Cards Season 2. And that’s a good thing, for all my friends and me who are anxiously waiting the next season’s download.

Interposing a government-mandated process for how companies like Netflix work with Internet Service Providers to improve my experience is what concerns me. Really? An agency that can’t maintain a website to receive public comments is going to tell technology companies how to configure network arrangements to ensure I get my digital bits faster and cheaper than before? Hmmm…

Confusing the issue of Internet interconnection with the ever-popular concept of network neutrality makes me even more nervous.

I understand why companies and their advocates want to attach their business issues to a politically compelling movement, but I worry that the end result will be that my Netflix viewing experience won’t actually improve or evolve to something I can’t predict but which surely will be faster, better and cheaper than it is today. Netflix seems to have forgotten what made them successful to begin with.