Tier 1 Internet service provider Verizon (NYSE: VZ) fired back at VPN provider Golden Frog, saying in comments filed with the FCC that claims made by a Golden Frog customer in July, alleging that Verizon was throttling Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) data crossing onto its network, were inaccurate, misleading, and downright erroneous.
Golden Frog filed comments with the FCC in mid-July during the latest net neutrality comment period, alleging that subscribers to certain large ISPs, including Verizon's FiOS service, "are not receiving the open, neutral, and uninterrupted service to which the Commission says they are entitled."
The VPN provider cited one of their customers, Colin Nederkoorn, who said that his Netflix streaming speed jumped from 375 Kbps to 3 Mbps when he encrypted his traffic and routed it via Golden Frog's service.
Techdirt reported on Golden Frog's filing in mid-October, noting that the VPN provider also claimed that wireless broadband providers are blocking e-mail encryption and putting their personal data at risk.
But back to the Netflix claims. Verizon refuted Golden Frog's allegations, saying that the provider is relying on the claims of a single customer for evidence of widespread throttling. The ISP reiterated earlier comments that Netflix caused its own traffic problems by deciding "to route its traffic over a handful of transit providers who had not made arrangements for connections that could handle Netflix's traffic volumes," according to its Oct. 28 filing.
During that period of supposed darkness and chaos, the customer cited by Golden Frog likely just managed to create an encrypted VPN using a different, less congested interconnection path than Netflix was using, according to Verizon.
Thanks to an interconnect agreement signed with Netflix in April that gave both sides a "stable and predictable" way to handle massive Netflix traffic, Verizon says everything now is just great. (And indeed, FiOS in September shot to first place on the SVOD provider's monthly speed index.)
As to Golden Frog's claim, in its filing, that certain unnamed wireless broadband providers were preventing encryption of email traffic, Verizon was straightforward in its answer. "While, without more detail, it is difficult to know what may have caused the results Golden Frog claims it observed, we can confirm that Verizon does not have a policy or practice of blocking end users' chosen encryption. Period."
But Techdirt's Mike Masnick found the encryption claims unsettling--more so than any alleged throttling. While Golden Frog cited wireless broadband providers and the instance involved email, Masnick said such blocking could extend to VPN use on any ISP's network. "This is scary. If ISPs are actively trying to block the use of encryption, it shows how they might seek to block the use of VPNs and other important security protection measures, leaving all of us less safe," he said.
Update: The Washington Post revealed on Oct. 28 that Cricket Wireless was the mobile broadband provider that was blocking emails.
VPNs have occasionally been targeted by providers and others that are fearful the secure networks are allowing users to download content illegally or watch online video not licensed for their region. Earlier this year, Hulu blocked certain VPN IP addresses to stop unauthorized viewing of its content outside the United States.
According to Masnick, the FCC needs to take into account issues like blocking VPNs and encryption in its Open Internet rulemaking. "…just at a time when we need stronger encryption and privacy online, the FCC may undermine it with weak net neutrality rules that allow this type of behavior to continue," he said.
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