REUTERS - Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) Chief Executive Reed Hastings on Thursday said internet service providers should give content companies adequate network connections for free, and singled out Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) for supporting "weak" internet traffic rules.
In February, Netflix struck a deal to pay Comcast for faster online delivery of its movies and TV shows through a practice known as interconnection, after customers complained about slow service.
Hastings called interconnection fees an "arbitrary tax" that the company would pay in certain cases to protect its customers' experience.
"Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge," Hastings wrote on the Netflix blog.
He said free interconnection was key to ensuring "net neutrality," which requires that internet providers treat data from different content companies equally.
Comcast is seeking approval from U.S. regulators for its proposed $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC.N). Treatment of internet traffic is one issue expected to receive scrutiny during the government's review.
Hastings said Comcast "has been an industry leader in supporting weak net neutrality, and we hope they'll support strong net neutrality as well."
Comcast, in a statement from executive vice president David Cohen, said no other company had a "stronger commitment to openness of the Internet."
The company is the only broadband provider currently bound by the government's net neutrality, or "Open Internet," rules. An appeals court struck down the rules in January, but Comcast committed to following them under an agreement with the government when it purchased NBC Universal.
Cohen said those rules were not meant to cover interconnection arrangements. He added that providers like Netflix had always paid for interconnection and had "ample options" to ensure that customers enjoyed optimal performance at a fair price.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Stephen Coates)
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