Robert Dominic Ventre II
Staff WriterComcast has been busy as of late. While still undertaking their $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, the mass media giant has also struck a deal with Netflix, promising to stream their videos to Comcast's consumers directly – thus cutting down on stability issues and sluggish playback. Though the exact terms of the deal have not been disclosed, Comcast has assured its critics that Netflix will receive “no preferential network treatment.” Both companies announced their deal today, February 23rd, confirming recent reports that had shown Netflix videos acquiring a more direct path to Comcast's consumer base. Having been over a year in the making, Comcast's deal with Netflix will likely eliminate the online media provider as a critic of their acquisition of Time Warner Cable, which has recently raised concerns over monopolizing certain market areas. MN Democratic Senator Al Franken had this to say regarding the merger: “There’s not enough competition in this space, and what we need is more competition, not less,” Netflix and Comcast have already come under fire from consumer advocacy groups, who state that neither company is acting on behalf of their customers. Comcast subscribers have already experienced rising rates for slower, poorer service – as stated by Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press: “It appears Comcast had no problem knowingly letting its users have a bad experience with their broadband service while waiting to resolve this issue,” Wood went on to say, “Only a giant like Netflix could afford to withstand a protracted battle like this, and it may have just surrendered more than it would have if ISPs weren’t allowed to abuse their gatekeeper status.” Netflix had previously sought to acquire direct access to Comcast networks via their “Open Connect” initiative, wherein a third party would deliver movies and TV shows to its own hardware either in or near to Comcast's facilities. Comcast refused, countering with an offer where Netflix would pay to connect to their networks directly. Per Netflix company spokesman Jonathan Friedland: "It basically means that the deterioration in performance for consumers that we've been seeing will reverse," Despite both companies assuring the public that no foul play would result in steeper rates for consumers, critics both online and off have already denounced the deal as damning for the marketplace. Michael Weinberg, vice president of digital advocacy group Public Knowledge, warns that forcing streaming services to essentially pay an extra fee to provide content will only allow Comcast to act as a financial gatekeeper of sorts: "The Internet service provider is injecting itself into the relationship between Netflix and its customers.” "We're going to see a lot more of these problems in the next year or two … with the dispute turning on data entering and leaving the network. Comcast is in this gate-keeping position. They can tell Netflix if you want to work with us, you also pay. Netflix subscribers end up paying more so that Netflix can pay Comcast to access Comcast network." More on this story as it develops!
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