Even as we mull over the broader implications of the FCC's new net neutrality proposal, let's highlight a slice of it to get an idea of what this could mean for companies such as Netflix.
A key part of the Federal Communications Commission's draft rules would cover the Internet backbone — a crucial part of the Web that's responsible for ferrying data to your Internet provider, which then turns around and serves that data to you. Without it, you couldn't get Netflix videos because basically there would be no way for Netflix to get those videos to your Internet provider.
Under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal, the agency would reserve the right to review the behavior of Internet providers in this space. One example includes Comcast's treatment of Netflix traffic at part of the Internet where the backbone meets Comcast's network. You may remember that Netflix and Comcast struck a controversial deal last year that has Netflix paying to connect directly with Comcast.
The FCC's draft net neutrality rule allows any company that feels like it's been unfairly treated in the middle mile (e.g., Netflix) to file a complaint and have the agency examine what's going on. In responding to the proposal Wednesday, Netflix said: "If such an oversight process had been in place last year, we certainly would've used it when a handful of ISPs opted to hold our members hostage until we paid up."
And while Netflix says it isn't looking to go back and have those deals reversed, it's hard not to imagine the streaming video company someday filing a complaint if another Internet provider tries to strike a similar deal with it.
Of course, there's a long way to go for Wheeler's proposed rules to become the law of the land. They'll have to pass a vote by the full commission on Feb. 26 and then survive a lawsuit from Internet providers. But Netflix is making itself clear: If given the chance to have the FCC probe those kinds of deals, it'll take it.