Netflix, Comcast End Feud: Why It Matters to You

Categories: Tech, Television

Pay to play in full force.
If you tried to watch a movie or a TV series recently on Netflix, particularly if you happen to have Comcast as your Internet provider, you might have had a few issues. Sure, they may have the entire final season of Breaking Bad, but it won't do you much good if you are constantly having to buffer. That was the case for many Comcast subscribers as the cable giant, according to Netflix, slowed streams from the service by as much as 27 percent.

Fortunately, this week the two media companies reached an agreement that will end the dispute. This comes on the heals of the massive merger between Comcast and Time Warner. But even if you don't use Comcast, this deal should be of interest to you because it has the potential to impact future deals between other streaming services. There is also word that cable companies, in an effort to protect eroding markets as people leave subscription television services for streaming, will begin increasing prices to Internet-only customers.

Here's the breakdown on how all this affects you.

I'm going to assume you use the Internet or you wouldn't be reading this. Connecting to the Internet means going through an internet service provider (ISP). These services normally are provided by a broadband internet company like Comcast, which bundles internet, cable and phone services, or through a wireless connection like Verizon.

Regardless of how you get a connection to the internet, the companies providing that connection are looking for ways to protect themselves in an ever-changing marketplace. That includes limitations on downloads (particularly via wireless services) and slowing down the internet connection of those who use them most via a process called throttling. Anyone who downloads music or streams movies could have his or her connection slowed to the point that streaming services become difficult if not impossible to use.

In the case of Netflix, it was beginning to impinge on Comcast's bottom line. Not only was it using up a tremendous amount of Comcast's network bandwidth, but Netflix was beginning to steal cable subscribers from Comcast.

In addition to things like bandwidth limitations, there are other, larger concerns at work for consumers. The fact that Comcast and Netlix made a deal means that companies big enough to do so will simply buy their way onto the playing field. In essence, Comcast didn't like the fact that Netflix was using a lot of its bandwidth, so it slowed access, making the service less palatable to users. To avoid that, Netflix has to pay Comcast to stop doing it.


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