iiNet & Netflix: I Don’t Like Where This Is Going

Here’s a line from iiNet’s Media Release on the announcement that they’re going quota-free on Netflix:

iiNet fixed line broadband customers, across all brands, will have access to hours of the latest television and movie content, quota-free, after the Internet Service Provider today announced a partnership with Netflix.

I saw lot of people read this announcement and go “yay! I like this!” — but frankly, I’m not one of them.

I’ve never been a fan of this approach by Australian ISPs about using quotas and content as a carrot to dangle in front of customers. I wrote about it back in 2012, when Telstra and Foxtel were launching unmetered catch-up TV:

I’m really a big believer in small players challenging big ones in all areas of technology. These kinds of insidious rules make it really difficult for disruptive innovation to happen, especially in Australia. In North America, where there are media conglomerates far bigger than our own, there’s a hyper-vigilance to maintain net neutrality; these kinds of shenanigans wouldn’t fly (yet).

Fast-forward to 2015, and the US has gotten their shit together. They just had their net neutrality rules strengthened by the FCC, much to the dismay of the big US carriers (Verizon, Comcast etc).

Meanwhile, Australia is going down the opposite path, but instead of ‘internet fast lanes’ (of which we have very little), the battle wages instead over ‘unmetered’ or ‘quota-free’ content.

It blurs the line on what an ISP means to you as a consumer. Could you see someone who’d normally consider switching away from iiNet stick around regardless because they were a heavy Netflix user?

I would say yes, that’s definitely a possibility.

The key to maintaining a competitive ISP landscape in Australia (which is good for consumers) is not ‘quota-free’ services which fiddle with our right to freely choose ISP services and content independent of one another.

The key is better service, faster speeds, more download quota and cheaper prices. If only we had some kind of nationally available broadband network of some kind, which would allow ISPs to compete on these terms alone. An ‘NBN’ if you will.

Nah, that’s crazy.