Netflix boss Reed Hastings hits out at ISP traffic fees

Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood in House of Cards Netflix's popularity has increased since it began producing original programming, such as House of Cards

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The head of video-streaming service Netflix has hit out at internet service providers (ISPs) for demanding a fee to maintain video streaming quality.

The company recently "reluctantly" made a deal with US ISP Comcast to make sure its videos were streamed faster and more smoothly.

ISPs argue that data-heavy services should share the cost of providing capacity on the networks.

But campaigners argue that this approach stifles innovation.

Influential figures, including the likes of web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, call for what has been termed "net neutrality" - the principle that all data sent and received using the internet should be treated equally.

Some ISPs said that, for services that put a strain on their infrastructure, content providers should be charged.

Net neutrality supporters say that without rules in place, small or start-up organisations will find it harder to break into the market if they cannot afford to pay for priority service.

'Fight goes on'

This was a point of view supported strongly by Reed Hastings, Netflix's chief executive.

"Some big ISPs are extracting a toll because they can - they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay," he wrote in a blog post.

Amid concerns that it would pave the way for other ISPs to demand the same, he defended his company's decision to strike a deal with Comcast.

Reed Hastings, Netflix chief executive: "We are at the very beginning of internet television"

"Netflix believes strong net neutrality is critical, but in the near term we will, in cases, pay the toll to the powerful ISPs to protect our consumer experience."

But he added: "We will continue to fight for the internet the world needs and deserves."

As well as the Comcast deal, Netflix is also in talks with another major US provider, Verizon.

Verizon - backed by several other ISPs - recently won a a court appeal against new rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that aimed to ensure net neutrality in the US.

The company said: "The court's decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the internet."

The FCC said it would still press for a new law, to "ensure that these networks on which the internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expressions".

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