In what is likely to become a common occurrence if recently proposed “net neutrality” rules go into effect and internet service providers (ISPs) officially gain the authority to charge more for faster download speeds, a major streaming content provider and an ISP are currently locked in battle over bitrates.

Earlier this week Netflix customer Yuri Victor tweeted an image of a Netflix error message that popped up on his screen while he waited for video to buffer:


The message indicates that the reason for the slow connection is congestion on Verizon’s network.  This is particularly odd given that just a couple of months ago, Netflix entered into an agreement with Verizon to allow Netflix to pay a premium to Verizon in order to bypass congestion.

In other words, these two corporate giants are already doing the very thing that proponents of net neutrality are against, but now they’re having a spat about it.

After first calling it a “publicity stunt,” Verizon eventually issued a cease and desist letter to Netflix, asserting that the slow delivery was due to issues at Netflix, not at Verizon, and insisting that the company stop displaying the error message.

The letter goes on to insist that Netflix also provide Verizon a list of all the customers who had been sent the notice. Netflix replied:

“This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider. We are trying to provide more transparency…We are testing ways to let consumers know how their Netflix experience is being affected by congestion on their broadband provider’s network. Our test continues.”

It will be interesting to see how the conflict plays out in the coming weeks and days, but one thing is sure. If net neutrality dies, this type of conflict will become a constant part of our online experience.