Last night, Yuri Victor tweeted a screenshot of a new Netflix error message he saw while a video was buffering. It tells Verizon customers exactly what's to blame for slow video. And judging by the response from Netflix's spokesperson Jonathan Friedland, it's no mistake. Update: AT&T customers are getting similar error messages.
— jonathan friedland (@jsf33) June 4, 2014
The new snippiness is particularly odd because Netflix and Verizon signed a deal back in April that would ensure efficient delivery for the video giant. Of course, Netflix had already signed a similar deal with Comcast two months prior. But despite what should now be a level-ish playing field for Comcast and Verizon customers, Cnet says Verizon FIOS ranks eighth in Netflix's speed evaluations.
Update 1: Bob Elek, spokesperson for Verizon, says the following in a comment on this post:
This is a Netflix PR stunt. We're investigating this claim but it seems misleading and could confuse people.
Update 2: A Netflix spokesperson emailed me with the following statement:
We are testing ways to let consumers know how their Netflix experience is being affected by congestion on their broadband provider's network. At present, we are testing in the U.S. in areas serviced by many broadband providers. This test started in early May.
Update 3: In fairness, it seems AT&T internet customers have been getting the error message too. Netflix spokesperson Joris Evers pointed out this tweet, which originated weeks before the Verizon tweet shown above. We've changed our headline to indicate that this error message is not just affecting Verizon customers.
— russellg (@russlar42) May 12, 2014
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. Of course, Netflix is solely responsible for choosing how their traffic is routed into any ISP's network.
[...] It would be more accurate for Netflix's message screen to say: "The path that we have chosen to reach Verizon's network is crowded right now."
Update 5: Reader clamsandsnails just provided us with a screenshot showing what this warning looks like for AT&T Uverse internet customers. Thanks bud!
Update 6: Things are heating up. Verizon's lawyers just sent Netflix a cease and desist letter saying, "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." Key word here, of course, being "solely."
Update 7: Looks like Netflix is taking that threat seriously; they're putting a stop to the messages. For now anyway.