Verizon fired back at Netflix on Thursday after Netflix showed its customers an error message blaming Verizon’s network for slowing the streaming of Netflix’s programming.
The error message, which surfaced on social media Tuesday, told users waiting for video to load that "The Verizon network is crowded right now" and that Netflix was adjusting the video for smoother playback.
In a cease-and-desist letter, Randal S. Milch, Verizon’s general counsel, demanded that Netflix’s notice be taken down.
The accusation "is self-serving, deceptive, inaccurate and an unfair business practice," Milch said.
The letter was sent to Netflix’s top lawyer, David Hyman.
Netflix, the letter asserted, chooses to use complex systems for streaming video and thus cannot say with certainty that Verizon is responsible for diminished service. Verizon also demanded that Netflix provide it with a list of users who were shown the notice and evidence that substantiates the claim that Verizon’s service caused the slow delivery of Netflix’s content.
"Failure to provide this information may lead us to pursue legal remedies," the letter said.
The dust-up comes after Verizon and Netflix agreed in April that Netflix could pay Verizon to connect directly to its network, creating a faster connection.
Jonathan Friedland, Netflix’s chief communications officer, declined to comment on the letter’s specifics but said in a statement that the error messages were part of a test encompassing many Internet service providers and that they would continue.
"This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider," the statement said.
"We are trying to provide more transparency," it said, referring to a ranking that Netflix keeps of Internet service providers’ speeds, "and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion."
This is not the first time that Netflix has clashed with the Internet service providers it relies on to deliver its content. The company earlier this year opposed the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable.