Netflix is reentering the fray over net neutrality, saying it will participate in an online protest next month designed to draw attention to a high-stakes fight over the future of the Internet.
The streaming video company said Thursday that it will “never outgrow” its advocacy for net neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers should not arbitrarily manipulate online content as it travels to consumers' screens.
On July 12, Netflix will join Amazon, Reddit, Mozilla and a host of others in modifying its website. The user-facing changes are expected to highlight the benefits of regulations approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The FCC's rules on net neutrality forbid Internet providers from blocking, slowing or demanding fees from the websites that consumers wish to visit. They also allow the FCC to investigate practices that it deems allegedly anti-competitive. But Republicans at the FCC are working to undo the rules, which they say are too stifling to telecom and cable companies and inhibit their growth.
Netflix was among those vociferously calling for the rules in 2015, saying without them, ISPs could use their control over customers' connections to unfairly choke off Internet traffic from its service. ISPs have said that they endorse the idea of net neutrality despite opposing the FCC's rules. Netflix didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
As the FCC ramped up efforts to repeal the regulations this year, Netflix initially struck a muted tone. It downplayed the impact that a repeal would have on its business, and chief executive Reed Hastings said at an industry conference that it was time for others to pick up the mantle of leadership on the issue.
Some analysts say that Netflix's incentives changed when it signed paid deals with ISPs to ensure that its content would reach consumers without lag. With that, the biggest, most controversial reason for Netflix's involvement in the net neutrality debate was taken off the table, a development that ultimately turned net neutrality into a less pressing issue for Netflix's business, according to Jeff Kagan, an independent media and telecom analyst.
Still, the company has said it has always endorsed the principle of net neutrality. And now the streaming video company appears to be flexing its activist muscles once more.