Netflix: We’ll drop the anti-Verizon error messages. For now.

(AP Photo/Netflix, Nathaniel E. Bell)

Netflix says it will stop pinning the blame for laggy streaming speeds on Verizon and other Internet providers, potentially putting an end to a weeklong dispute between broadband companies and the streaming video service.

The error messages, which began popping up for some users as part of a trial in May, told subscribers that their stuttering connections were the result of congestion on their ISP networks. The claim led Verizon to fire back with a cease-and-desist letter demanding that the notices stop.

Netflix will suspend the messages on June 16, according to a company blog post. But spokesman Joris Evers denied that the decision had anything specific to do with Verizon's complaint.

"We do tests of different lengths," said Evers. "That doesn’t mean there won’t be another one, and it doesn't mean there won’t be multiple ones that run in concert after this."

Netflix will examine the results of the current test to see whether users called customer service more or less often and whether they watched more or less video, among other things.

In its monthly index ranking the streaming speeds of various carriers, Netflix noted that Verizon FiOS had gotten much slower since April, falling two places and ending up behind DSL Internet provided by Windstream and Frontier.

The company's announcement comes one day before a deadline set by Verizon in its cease-and-desist letter demanding evidence for Netflix's claim that the ISP was responsible for the drop in streaming speeds. In a recent interview with CNET, Verizon's head of regulatory affairs David Young said the blame game was a "moot point" because the company is busy rolling out improvements to its network that will boost the speeds — the result of a recent commercial agreement between the two companies.

"We can't just snap our fingers and the network is upgraded," said Young. "We need new facilities. We have to do the equipment engineering. Build it and test it. We are doing all of that right now. And it should be completed during this year."

It's unclear whether Netflix will respond to Verizon's cease-and-desist letter, according to a company official who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.



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