Netflix Inc.'s decision to offer access to a new library of "Super HD" content only to ISPs that hook into its private content delivery network is rapidly evolving into a scrum over network neutrality and peering relationships.
As reported by Multichannel News, Time Warner Cable Inc. is in talks to join Netflix's "Open Connect" initiative, but the operator at the same time complained that the Netflix policy is a ploy to gain special treatment from ISPs.
Here's TW Cable's full statement, also provided to Light Reading Cable:
"Time Warner Cable is currently in discussions with Netflix regarding acceptable commercial terms for its delivery network. While they call it 'Open Connect,' Netflix is actually closing off access to some of its content while seeking unprecedented preferential treatment from ISPs. We believe it is wrong for Netflix to withhold any content formats from our subscribers and the subscribers of many other ISPs. Time Warner Cable's network is more than capable of delivering this content to Netflix subscribers today."
Netflix has not yet responded to TW Cable's claims.
Netflix has already claimed that any ISP that wants to deliver its new Super HD format "can do so easily and for free."
Netflix's Super HD slate, encoded in 1080p, also includes titles offered in 3-D format. According to Netflix data, Super HD requires downstream speeds of at least 5 Mbit/s, and 7 Mbit/s "for our highest available video quality." Netflix currently offers Super HD to the following devices: the Sony Corp. PlayStation 3; Apple TV with 1080p; Roku Inc. boxes with 1080p; the Nintendo Wii U; PCs running Windows 8; and Blu-ray players and smart TVs with Netflix 1080p support.
Several ISPs, including Cablevision Systems Corp., Virgin Media Inc., BT Group plc and Telus Corp., have joined Netflix Open Connect.
Cablevision announced its membership during this month's Consumer Electronics Show, stating that it gives the MSO a competitive edge against Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., which do not yet have a direct local connection with Netflix or access to the Super HD library. (See Netflix Connects With Cablevision.)
Netflix, meanwhile, has been publishing a monthly ranking of major U.S. ISPs based on their streaming quality. In Netflix's December 2012 post, TW Cable ranked seventh, with an average speed of 2.05 Mbit/s for Netflix streams. Google Fiber, at 2.57 Mbit/s, was tops.
This isn't the first time Netflix and the cable industry have sparred over network neutrality concerns. Netflix earlier complained that Comcast gives special treatment to video streams that are delivered to the Xbox 360 via the MSO's own Xfinity TV app. (See Comcast Denies It's Prioritizing Xbox Video and Netflix CEO Keeps Whining About Comcast.)
â€” Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable