FCC Looks Into Netflix and Internet Providers' Spat Over Load Speeds

WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators will review agreements between Netflix, Verizon, Comcast and other content and Internet providers to figure out whether they are causing slow web download speeds for some consumers, especially for streaming video content.

Consumers have complained to the Federal Communications Commission about the ongoing spat between Netflix and Internet service providers (ISPs). Both sides accuse each other of causing a slowdown in Internet speeds by the way they route traffic.

Large content providers such as Netflix Inc have historically paid middlemen or ISPs to deliver their content to consumers. The specifics of such agreements, known as "interconnection" have been secret and outside of the FCC's regulatory scope.

The FCC earlier this year launched a new effort to set rules regulating how broadband providers manage Internet traffic on their networks. Netflix has urged the agency to begin regulating such agreements to do away with fees that content companies pay.

Image: A person displays Netflix on a tablet
A person displays Netflix on a tablet. Elise Amendola / AP file

Though the FCC has not indicated that it plans to regulate the deals, the agency is now asking multiple Internet service providers and content companies, particularly video service providers, to provide details, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said.

"Consumers need to understand what is occurring when the Internet service they've paid for does not adequately deliver the content they desire, especially content they've also paid for," he told reporters after a monthly FCC meeting.

"What we are doing right now is collecting information, not regulating. We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I," he said.

Analysts pegged the FCC's move as a win for Netflix, which on Friday welcomed the move toward more transparency.

Comcast, Verizon and AT&T welcomed the FCC's review on Friday. Internet providers pointed out that traffic exchange fees have long been negotiated through commercial agreements and said they hoped the review would focus on consumers and not a particular business model.

— Reuters

Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC.