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Netflix calls Verizon out on buffering issues

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In this July 20, 2010 file photo, a person uses Netflix in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP/File)

You know things are bad when relations are reduced to corporate tattletaling. But when it comes to pointing the finger at who’s responsible for its customers bad streaming video experience, Netflix is apparently willing to point the finger at its contentious partner, Verizon. 

Recently, we learned that Verizon internet customers suffering from buffering have begun seeing the message “Verizon Network is crowded right now” complete with a scary exclamation point, courtesy of Netflix. A screenshot of the message was tweeted by Yuri Victor yesterday, and later confirmed via tweet by Netflix spokesman, Jonathan Friedland.

The tweets have started a buzz online concerning Netflix’s brazen condemnation, growing loud enough to prompt a response from Verizon, as reported by Gizmodo. According to the report, Verizon spokesperson Bob Elek posted this message in response: “This is a PR stunt. We’re investigating this claim but it seems misleading and could confuse people.” 

Buffering and poor picture quality aren’t new to many of Netflix’s customers, but a deal between the two companies in which Netflix reluctantly agreed to pay Verizon for a direct connection to its network was designed to rectify the problem. However, at a pitiful number 8 on the most recent Netflix Speed Index report, Verizon FiOS is still having issues serving up big red’s feeds. And Netflix wants you to know, as far as it’s concerned, the blame is all on the other side of the stream.

It’s no secret that Netflix is by far the most popular streaming service in the U.S. At peak hours, the service takes up a massive swath of bandwidth, most recently measured at around 34 percent of all traffic in North America. Its wide success, and perceived hogging of the network, put the company in prime position for ISPs like Comcast and Verizon to broker paid deals for access to their large subscriber bases. However, Netflix’s much decried Comcast deal launched the communications titan to number 3 on the streaming chart and Verizon is still having trouble keeping pace.

The issue is even more entangled thanks to past claims that Verizon, and other ISPs, were intentionally throttling Netflix streams in order to coax cash from the service. However, if money was the motivation, and Verizon already has the deal it was looking for, the question as to why streams over the Verizon’s pipelines are still subpar must be asked. Perhaps the issue is less opaque than the throttling conspiracy theories suggest, and Verizon is simply unable to keep up with the Johnson’s when it comes to handling streaming video.

In any case, it appears that Netflix is no longer mincing words when it comes to exactly who it thinks is to blame for your sluggish feeds. There are plenty of bread crumbs leading to shady dealings between top ISPs and the rest of the Internet's tangled pipelines, and Netflix has been quick to cast blame. He said/she said has become the status quo when it comes to the schoolyard fighting between Netflix and the ISPs with which it takes issue, becoming a near weekly phenomenon. 

Now it appears Netflix is taking its case straight to the consumer. Meanwhile, we just want to watch season 2 of “Orange is the New Black” without any trouble. Luckily, we’ve got Comcast.