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Verizon demands Netflix stop bad-video blame game

NEW YORK — Verizon Communications Inc., the country’s fourth-largest home Internet service provider, sent a letter to Netflix Inc. on Thursday, telling it to stop blaming Verizon for bad video quality or face a lawsuit.

Verizon is reacting to messages appearing on the screens of some Netflix subscribers, blaming Internet service providers for poor video quality.

The “cease and desist” letter is a continuation of verbal and technological sparring between ISPs and Netflix, whose streaming service accounts for a third of U.S. Internet usage during peak evening hours.

Internet service providers such as Comcast Corp. and Verizon want to be compensated for establishing fast links to Netflix, either directly or through intermediaries. Netflix says ISPs should swallow the costs.

“This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider,” Netflix Inc. said Thursday. “We are trying to provide more transparency … and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion.”

“The impression that Netflix is falsely giving our customers is that the Verizon network is generally ‘crowded’ and troublesome,” Verizon general counsel Randal Milch said in the letter. “Responsibility for its customers’ experience falls squarely on Netflix itself …. The cost/quality trade-off is one Netflix has chosen.”

In April, Netflix agreed to pay Verizon for a direct connection to its customers to improve delivery of its video. But Netflix still ranks Verizon’s fiber-based FiOS service below all major cable companies in its “ISP Speed Index,” even though FiOS matches or exceeds cable modem download speeds in most areas.

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