Verizon Threatens Legal Action Over Netflix Blame Game

Verizon has issued a cease and desist order to Netflix after the video service started blaming Verizon for poor streaming quality.

Verizon Threatens Legal Action Over Netflix Blame Game
Twitter / @yurivictor

The battle between Verizon and Netflix over connection speeds has taken a turn for the dramatic. Verizon sent Netflix an irate cease and desist letter after the video streaming service slammed the cable company for poor network quality.

This particular spat began Tuesday, when Vox's Yuri Victor noticed this error message on his Netflix video blaming Verizon's crowded network for poor video quality. Victor's tweet was picked up by major news sites, and the war was on.

Verizon immediately blasted Netflix's loading message as a "PR stunt ... inaccurate ... [and] deliberately misleading."

And on Thursday, the company took legal action, sending a cease and desist letter to Netflix accusing them of defamation. "To now accuse last-mile ISPs of being solely responsible for service issues ... is self-serving, deceptive, inaccurate and an unfair business practice." (Via Verizon)

For its part, Netflix has released their own statement claiming they are within their rights to place the blame on Verizon's network. "This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider. We are trying to provide more transparency ... and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion." (Via Quartz)

Some context here: Netflix has previously agreed to pay Verizon and other ISPs in order to improve streaming quality of Netflix videos. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has publicly protested such deals, claiming they violate net neutrality. (Via Flickr / JD Lasica)

But a writer for The Verge points out the current argument is a dispute over who should be paying for network maintenance — which, at least as of right now, isn't considered a net neutrality issue by the FCC. "Netflix may have to lead this fight on its own."

Verizon's notice says Netflix must immediately remove the message and provide evidence within five days that Verizon's networks were actually causing problems for Netflix traffic. Netflix hasn't said yet whether it will comply with the order.