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FCC launches probe into Verizon/Netflix spat

Commission will figure out whether video traffic was deliberately throttled

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The Federal Communications Commision (FCC) has announced it will investigate whether Verizon deliberately slowed traffic from Netflix.

Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement on Friday that the commission will "collect information" on how the ISP handled traffic from the streaming video service as the two firms were negotiating a direct-access deal.

"Recently, at my direction, Commission staff has begun requesting information from ISPs and content providers," Wheeler said.

"We have received the agreements between Comcast and Netflix and Verizon and Netflix. We are currently in the process of asking for others."

The FCC chairman noted that the commission was only collecting information on the matter, and that no regulatory action is planned in the case at this point.

The move comes as Verizon and Netflix find themselves involved in a dust-up over the handling of streaming video. Netflix, which signed a direct-access deal with Verizon earlier this year, has long noted that its services run slower on Verizon's network than many other ISPs. Verizon, for its part, has denied deliberately throttling Netflix content.

"Internet traffic exchange has always been handled through commercial agreements. This has worked well for the Internet ecosystem and consumers," a Verizon spokesman told The Reg.

"We are hopeful that policy makers will recognize this fact and that the Internet will continue to be the engine of growth of the global economy."

Last week, the spat nearly spilled over into a legal matter when Verizon sent Netflix a cease and desist order over error messages the video streamer popped up which blamed Verizon's network for slow traffic. Netflix has agreed to</stop serving the messages it said were part of a test program.

The conflict strikes at the heart of the net neutrality debate, as many advocates believe that without neutrality protections carriers will pressure services and site operators to pay for "preferred" access to customers and throttle traffic for those who do not. ®

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