Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Netflix and the Future of NGN Interconnection

            Recent press accounts report that Netflix and cable television companies have collaborated on carriage agreements.  What results from these negotiations may provide a model on next generation network (“NGN”) interconnection and compensation arrangements.

            Currently telecommunications, cable television and Internet arrangements have problems for video-heavy traffic flows.  Traditional telephone carrier settlements have too much granularity when the meter counts minutes of use.  Cable television retransmission consent agreements primarily cover copyright licensing, because the content typically arrives at the cable head end via satellite (paid by the content provider) leaving the cable operator with the last mile distribution it already performs for all other channels.  Current Internet arrangements focus on directly interconnecting carriers and customers making it difficult to extend a compensation demand farther upstream to sources or distributors of content.

            Retail ISPs in particular have objected to providing last mile carriage of Netflix traffic “without compensation,” a false allegation, but one gaining some traction.  ISPs want Netflix to pay them directly, in addition to the significant retail subscriptions paid by their end users and the transit, paid peering and other compensation arrangements paid to them by Content Delivery Networks and even other ISPs with comparatively more traffic needing downstream delivery.

            Netflix and cable operators appear to work on a mutually beneficial interconnection and compensation regime where compensation flows directly to the cable operator, but the length of carriage—and presumably the cost—drops with the installation of a proxy server directly at the headend.  Netflix benefits by securing higher quality of service and some future assurance that the cable broadband plant can and will handle even more traffic as Netflix’s subscribership grows and when content formats increase in bandwidth requirements, e.g., 3D and ultra high definition. 

            Cable operators benefit, by securing financial compensation for their retransmission consent.  While the interconnection arrangement may differ from other satellite-delivered cable networks, or the retransmission of broadcast channels, cable operators will receive direct compensation for providing a subscriber-friendly platform using the existing set top box.

            Consumers may end up having to pay more for their Netflix subscription to cover higher delivery costs as well as higher copyright licenses, but the convenience in access enhances the value proposition.  Rather than trying to engineer and “sling” Netflix content from the computer to the television set wirelessly, the content arrives directly to the television set, a winning proposition.

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