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Verizon Sends Netflix Cease-and-Desist Letter Over On-Screen Warnings

Verizon fired off a cease-and-desist letter to Netflix on Thursday after the streaming service started posting warnings blaming the Internet provider when subscribers experience low-quality video.

In Verizon’s letter, its executive vice president Randal Milch writes that “there is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues with respect to playback of any particular video session are attributable solely to the Verizon network.”

Netflix’s error message, as identified by Vox Media’s Yuri Victor on Wednesday, reads, “The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback.”

SEE ALSO: Netflix Now Tells Users When Their ISPs Are Slow in Web Browser Messages

The messages stem from an escalating dispute over how Netflix content is connected to a subscriber’s Internet provider — what are called “interconnection” agreements. Netflix contends that it has been forced to deal directly with Comcast and with Verizon to ensure that their systems are not congested and subscribers don’t get degraded signals. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has objected to “big ISPs extracting a toll [for the interconnection] because they can.”

But Comcast has said that it was Netflix that chose to enter an agreement, announced in February, rather than go through a third-party service. Netflix reached an interconnection agreement with Verizon in April.

In a blog post, Verizon’s David Young called Netflix’s error message a “P.R. stunt” and added, “The source of the problem is almost certainly NOT congestion in Verizon’s network. Instead, the problem is most likely congestion on the connection that Netflix has chosen to use to reach Verizon’s network.”

In the cease-and-desist letter, Verizon’s Milch writes that “Netflix’s false accusations have the potential to harm the Verizon brand in the marketplace,” giving customers the impression that their network is “generally ‘crowded’ and troublesome.”

A spokesman for Netflix said that “this is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider. We are trying to provide more transparency, just like we do with the ISP Speed Index, and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion.”

In March, Hastings suggested that big Internet providers were charging interconnection fees even though customers have already paid for service. “When an ISP sells a consumer a 10 or 50 megabits-per-second Internet package, the consumer should get that rate, no matter where the data is coming from,” he wrote.

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