The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) has always been a strong supporter of an open Internet but disagrees with the regulatory approach taken by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce net neutrality principles. After the FCC voted last year to implement outdated and burdensome regulations on ISPs, we released a statement expressing our concern that these rules would hinder adoption in the Latino community by distorting the marketplace without addressing the real issues confronting online consumers. Unfortunately, those concerns have become a reality.
Last week, after being caught red-handed, Netflix – one of the biggest proponents of the FCC’s net neutrality rules – admitted that for the past five years it has been throttling video speeds to a crawling 600 kilo-bits-per-second for customers using the AT&T and Verizon wireless networks. Once outed, the company claimed its actions were an effort to protect consumers from exceeding data caps on their phones. It left unanswered why it had hidden its actions for nearly five years or why AT&T and Verizon wireless consumers were charged the same amount by Netflix for a purposefully degraded product using much lower speeds than what is acceptable on today’s wireless networks. The asymmetric effect Netflix’s actions have on minority populations is extremely worrisome. Hispanics are the most avid smartphone users in the U.S. but lag in subscribing to wired high speed broadband in the home. Netflix’s throttling is especially harmful to the smartphone-only customers whose primary access to the Internet is on mobile devices. These customers pay the same price for Netflix service as everyone else and should receive the same quality access to their favorite movies and shows. Unfortunately, Netflix’s selective throttling further perpetuates the digital gap that we are so urgently and aggressively working to close in the Hispanic community. Netflix has branded itself among regulators and lawmakers in Washington as a progressive company that wholeheartedly supports an Open Internet. However, this recent revelation reveals its hypocrisy and ability to significantly influence the competitive landscape of the wireless industry, all in the name of “protecting consumers”. But, if Netflix was really trying to protect consumers from wireless data caps like it claimed, the company would have revealed its practices from the beginning so consumers could make an informed decision. Instead, it chose to quietly deliver a degraded service to the millions of consumers using Verizon and AT&T while simultaneously encouraging them to blame their wireless provider for the slow video speeds on their networks – a complete contradiction to their advocacy efforts and claims during the Open Internet proceeding at the FCC. Last year, in a letter to the FCC, HTTP urged the Commission to “put at the forefront smart broadband policies that promote Latino adoption, access and engagement” and to not “regulate with outdated policies.” After this recent development, we hope the FCC reexamines its outdated approach to regulating the Internet ecosystem. Only then will it help guarantee that all consumers have equal access to the quality services they pay for and deserve.