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The Boston Globe

Business

FCC to examine Web traffic jams affecting Netflix

SAN FRANCISCO — The Federal Communications Commission is setting out to unravel the mystery behind the Internet traffic jams bogging down the delivery of Netflix videos and other online content.

The inquiry announced Friday by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will dissect the routes that video and other data travel to reach Internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon.

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This crucial handoff of content has gained more attention in recent months as Netflix Inc. and other critics have accused the two Internet service providers of deliberately slowing incoming traffic from websites unwilling to pay for a less congested entry point.

Comcast and Verizon contend Netflix should bear some of the cost for handling the heavy traffic caused by its 36 million US subscribers watching video over high-speed Internet connections. At peak viewing hours, Netflix accounts for about one-third of the Internet traffic in the United States, according to the research firm Sandvine.

The picture quality of Netflix video, though, has been increasingly erratic during the past year at several major Internet service providers, including Comcast and Verizon, which have a combined 30 million subscribers in the United States.

While Netflix has been streaming more smoothly at Comcast since those two companies forged their partnership in February, some problems have still been occurring on Verizon’s network.

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings has continued sniping at both Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications.

He argues they should be able to afford to deliver whatever online content that their subscribers want, given that their customers pay $50 to $80 per month for their Internet service. Netflix charges $8 to $12 per month for its Internet video service.

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