NEW YORK — When news broke in February that streaming giant Netflix would pay Comcast for direct access to the cable company’s broadband network, some experts said it marked the beginning of the end of net neutrality.
Yet a new report says that such deals are far more widespread than many realized at the time.
Many large tech companies — including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook — have quietly brokered deals with Internet providers to ensure their content is not slowed as it travels through their networks, according to a blog postpublished Wednesday by telecom analyst Dan Rayburn.
It’s unclear whether these deals were brokered before or after a federal court in January struck down rules that maintained net neutrality, which is the principle that all Internet traffic should be equally accessible to consumers. But Rayburn, an analyst at the research firm Frost & Sullivan, said such arrangements between web companies and Internet providers are nothing new.
“There are a lot of these deals in the market and have been for many, many years,” he wrote on his blog.
Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook did not return requests for comment.
Netflix, for example, accounts for roughly 30 percent of all web traffic. Because data-heavy videos can create traffic jams on broadband networks, the company is paying Comcast to ensure its videos are streamed to customers more smoothly.
Such deals pertain to how Internet traffic flows between your Internet provider and third-party middlemen who operate the backbone of the web.
Those deals are technically beyond the scope of the Federal Communications Commission’s recent proposal to allow Internet providers to charge web companies more to deliver their content via a “fast lane.” The FCC’s proposed fast lanes only relate to the so-called last mile of online traffic that flows directly to customers’ homes.
On Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told a congressional panel that the FCC would start looking more closely at the type of deals that Rayburn highlighted.
In his blog post, Rayburn said the deals are fair. If companies like Netflix didn’t pay extra to ensure their content was delivered smoothly, Internet providers would be forced to raise prices on customers by passing on the extra cost of handling the increased traffic from all of Netflix’s streaming videos.
This chart from Rayburn’s blog indicates deals between tech companies and Internet providers: