Netflix Cancels Keynote Speaking Spot At Streaming Media West Show

Last week, Netflix notified me that they would no longer be showing up to the Streaming Media West conference for the keynote they were confirmed to give on the second day of the show. They didn’t give any explanation or advance notice as to why they cancelled and didn’t respond to my email asking for more details. Some have asked me if they cancelled because they didn’t like my coverage of the current interconnection and net neutrality debate. I don’t know if that’s the case and I’m not going to speculate on the cause or use the cancellation to create any drama. I am disappointed as attendees wanting to learn from Netflix are the ones who are going to lose out, but the Streaming Media West show is not just about any one company. It’s bigger than that. Since Netflix only gave me eleven business days notice, I am working hard to find a good quality replacement as quickly as I can and will announce them once they are confirmed.

Update Nov. 13th: Skype will replace Netflix as the keynote.

Cogent’s Favoring Of Packets Disregards FCC Rules

For all the discussion around net neutrality, you would think people would want everyone to follow good net neutrality principles, with no exceptions. Whether the company is a last mile provider, transit provider, or network operator, net neutrality only works if everyone follows the same rules. Far too many people are giving Cogent a pass considering they have admitted that they put customers into different classes, prioritized packets based on those classes, and “favored” (their word, not mine) one set of customers over another. All while not disclosing it to customers or to the public, which looks to be in violation of FCC rules.

Cogent told Ars Technica that it implemented this network management policy in a “visible” and “transparent” way, yet the company didn’t discuss it publicly when the system was implemented and I have yet to speak to a single Cogent customer who was informed by Cogent what they were doing. There was nothing “transparent” about it. If Comcast had done this, people would be calling for their heads, rightfully so, and this would be a huge deal. People would be livid. But when Cogent does it, far too many people are willing to give them a pass, since Cogent wants to try to push the blame to the ISPs for what they themselves are doing.

On Cogent’s own website, they have a page called net neutrality where they outline what practices they follow. Cogent says that they “do not prioritize packet transmissions on the basis of the content of the packet, the customer or network that is the source of the packet, or the customer or network that is the recipient of the packet.” Cogent’s own guidelines says they do not prioritize packets, yet they have admitted to doing just that. Cogent should be held accountable and should come clean on exactly what they are doing. Cogent was very quick to say that what they did was “consistent with recommendations from BITAG“, but on page 43 of the document that Cogent references, the BITAG also recommends disclosing network and congestion management practices.

BITAG says the disclosure “should be made available on network operators’ public web sites and through other typically used communications channels, including mobile apps, contract language, or email.” It also gives a bullet list of seven things that should be disclosed including “what types of traffic are subject to the practices“, “the practices’ likely effects on end users’ experiences” and “the triggers that activate the use of the practices and whether those triggers are user-­‐or application-­‐based” amongst others. Cogent followed none of these.

I’m sure some are going to try to argue that Cogent doesn’t need to follow these guidelines as they aren’t an ISP, but that’s not accurate. Anyone who connects customers to the Internet is an ISP and even Cogent calls themselves an ISP on their website since they offer dedicated Internet access. It does not matter if the customer is residential broadband, WiFi, Metro-E, T1 or Wholesale. An ISP is an ISP. Verizon, Comcast, Level 3 all compete with Cogent for different types of customers, mainly enterprise, government, education and wholesale. Nobody should play by a different set of rules, especially when prioritization is used for some other reason. Based on numbers from a Cogent fact sheet, they have over 43,000 customer connections, so many customers could be affected by their practices.

On July 23rd of this year, the FCC put out an enforcement advisory saying that “broadband providers must disclose accurate information to protect consumers“. Based on Cogent not making it public how they were “favoring” traffic, nor notifying customers, Cogent clearly isn’t in compliance with the FCC’s requirement. Unless someone can show me differently, open Internet principles apply whether the customer is consumer or business, so it appears a company that argues and preaches for “strong net neutrality” willfully chose to ignore the most basic aspects of what they publicly advocate. Don’t be fooled by what Cogent is trying to do by pushing the blame back to last mile providers. Cogent ignored the guidelines set forth by the BITAG, the principles on their own website and the advisory by the FCC. If people truly want strong net neutrality, then ALL companies should be held accountable, not only a select group.

How To: Choosing An On-Demand and Live Cloud Encoding Service

At the Streaming Media West show, [taking place November 17-19 in Huntington Beach, CA] encoding guru Jan Ozer will present what cloud encoding is and how it works for both live and on-demand applications. Learn the types of applications that work well with cloud encoding and the factors to consider when choosing an on-demand and live cloud encoding service. The presentation will also include qualitative and performance results from recent reviews of some of today’s leading cloud based encoding platforms, including Amazon, Encoding.com, Elemental Cloud, and Zencoder.

Register online using the code 200DR for a “Discovery Pass” and get free access to the keynotes, exhibit hall, discovery track sessions, and receptions at #smwest.

Best Practices for Search & Discovery in a Connected World

Connected TVs and other streaming devices enable viewers to watch entire seasons of their favorite shows in a single sitting and remove them from the constrictions of linear TV. As a result, content owners need to get smart about how to market, organize, and present their content in connected environments so that they don’t miss out on opportunities to gain new viewers. At the Streaming Media West show, [taking place November 17-19 in Huntington Beach, CA] this session will provide expert advice about creating an effortless and engaging search and discovery process. Learn about playlists, curation and recommendations, metadata, sharing content across social media channels, and ways to make sure consumers pick your content on their device. Confirmed speakers for the session include:

  • Moderator: Sarah Barry James, Senior Reporter, SNL Kagan
  • Emil Rensing, Chief Digital Officer, EPIX
  • Phil Ranta, VP, Talent Operations, Fullscreen
  • Hillary Henderson, Director, Product Management, Clearleap
  • Simon Jones, Solutions Marketing Director, Ooyala

Register online using the code 200DR for a “Discovery Pass” and get free access to the keynotes, exhibit hall, discovery track sessions, and receptions at #smwest.

Cogent Now Admits They Slowed Down Netflix’s Traffic, Creating A Fast Lane & Slow Lane

Last week when M-Lab published the results of their study on traffic congestion on the Internet, many used it as another example of how the ISPs were the one’s responsible for slowing down or blocking Netflix traffic coming into the ISPs network. But something odd stood out about some of the data M-Lab’s collected, which policy makers and lawyers missed. The M-Lab’s data documented the introduction of a higher level of prioritization somewhere on the network. Prioritization rules that would impact how content is delivered to the ISPs, and would greatly impact the quality of video and other content consumers would receive.

This morning, Cogent admitted that in February and March of this year the company put in place a procedure that favored traffic on their network, putting a QoS structure in place, based on the type of content being delivered. Without telling anyone, Cogent created at least two priority levels (a ‘fast lane’ and ‘slow lane’), and possibly more, and implemented them at scale in February of this year. What Cogent did is considered a form of network management and was done without them disclosing it, even though it was the direct cause of many of the earlier published congestion charts and all the current debates. [See: Cogent’s Favoring Of Packets Disregards FCC Rules]

Cogent said they prioritized data based on user type “putting its retail customers in one group and wholesale in another.” Cogent said “retail customers were favored because they tend to use applications, such as VoIP, that are most sensitive to congestion” and that they “implemented a QoS structure that impacts interconnections during the time they are congested.” Cogent classified M-Lab performance tests into the highest priority class. As they did so, this change instantly and dramatically improved the M-Lab test results. [Described by Susan Crawford as “the Cliff and the Slope” – it appears the cliff was Cogent taking on Netflix and the slope was the introduction of a fast lane on the Cogent network] The fact that the high priority traffic class so quickly improved M-Lab’s test performance demonstrates conclusively that there must have been significant congestion present in Cogent’s network. Cogent now admits to impacting third-party content and says they did it as a “last resort effort to help manage the congestion and its impact to our customers”.

It seems extremely unusual that Cogent implemented this traffic change during the very same week that Comcast announced the Netflix deal. The Comcast and Netflix interconnection deal was announced On February 22 and most of the Cogent changes, according to the M-Lab blog, appear to have occurred within five days starting on February 20. Was this done to influence public debate about the cause & effect of the deal? Remember, Cogent started making critical comments in the press once they started making their prioritization changes, while not disclosing what they had done. And to make this even more interesting, Cogent makes it sound like they only did this in February and March of this year, but Cogent’s priority classes appear to continue to this day, which can be proven by looking at how the packets are being prioritized. If Netflix was aware of their traffic being deprioritized that would be even more interesting. And what about Cogent’s wholesale customers. Were they told their traffic was being deprioritized as well?

As I have been saying for many months, the vast majority of people are laying blame on specific companies without having all the data to really make an informed decision. This new admission by Cogent is just another example of companies playing games, in an effort not to disclose everything that is really going on behind the public’s eye. As far as I am concerned, all companies share the blame in this as they all have to work together to fix the problem and keep consumers happy. But for all the lawyers and policy makers that jump on something the moment it is released, and do a blog post laying blame, I’d like them to now explain what is going on when Cogent has now confirmed they put Netflix traffic in the slow lane.

Updated Nov. 6th: Cogent told Ars Technica that it implemented the network management in a “visible” and “transparent” way, yet the company didn’t discuss it publicly when the system was implemented.

And on Cogent’s website, on their net neutrality page it says: “Cogent practices net neutrality. We do not prioritize packet transmissions on the basis of the content of the packet, the customer or network that is the source of the packet, or the customer or network that is the recipient of the packet.”

Cogent can’t get their story straight.