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Netflix paying Comcast to solve speed issues

Netflix and Comcast have confirmed that the video subscription service has agreed on a deal to pay for direct access to Comcast’s broadband network and ensure a smooth streaming experience for its viewers. The agreement comes after weeks of stuttering, buffering and speed problems for Netflix customers who are signed up with Comcast.

According to insider sources, today’s deal has been several months in the making. In a joint statement the companies involved had this to say: “Comcast and Netflix today announced a mutually beneficial interconnection agreement that will provide Comcast’s U.S. broadband customers with a high-quality Netflix video experience for years to come.”

“Working collaboratively over many months, the companies have established a more direct connection between Netflix and Comcast, similar to other networks, that’s already delivering an even better user experience to consumers, while also allowing for future growth in Netflix traffic. Netflix receives no preferential network treatment under the multi-year agreement, terms of which are not being disclosed.”

A report at the end of last year suggested that Netflix accounts for nearly a third of all Internet traffic in the United States. This agreement and the technologies underlying it aren’t directly related to the issue of net neutrality, hence the mention of “no preferential network treatment” at the end of the statement — essentially, Netflix and Comcast are settling a dispute over who should ensure that the huge amounts of video that Netflix flings through Comcast’s servers don’t overwhelm them.

Nevertheless, it’s likely to keep the open Internet debate going. So far in 2014 we’ve seen a court ruling against the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules, and a pledge from the FCC to come up with a new set of Open Internet guidelines for ISPs to follow. Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the organization remained committed to “preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic, ensuring genuine transparency in how Internet Service Providers manage traffic, and enhancing competition.”

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