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Here’s why Netflix streaming quality has nosedived over the past few months

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussion' started by sparkyscott21, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. sparkyscott21

    sparkyscott21 Moderator Staff Member

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    Have your Netflix streams been much more laggy or choppy in recent months? If so then you’re not alone. As The Wall Street Journal shows, Netflix streaming quality has tanked at multiple major ISPs since this past October and much of it stems from behind-the-scenes wrangling over who will pick up the tab for all the added traffic demand Netflix’s services are generating.

    According to one of the Journal’s sources, “within the past four to six months, Netflix traffic through Cogent’s connections to one major broadband provider has at least quadrupled” in good part because Netflix has expanded its Super HD streaming service to all of its customers. This has led ISPs to demand some extra cash from Netflix that will be used to help ISPs speed up their networks to meet traffic demand. Netflix, meanwhile, “wants broadband companies to hook up to its new video-distribution network without paying them fees for carrying its traffic,” the Journalwrites.

    What this really boils down to, explains Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin, is a dispute over peering. Most of the time, ISPs and bandwidth providers such as Cogent Communications have peering agreements to swap traffic with one another without any additional charge. However, ISPs apparently think the rise of video streaming over their networks has upset the balance that peering agreements have traditionally struck which is why they’re trying to change things up.

    “When one party’s getting all the benefit and the other’s carrying all the cost, issues will arise,” Verizon head of public policy Craig Silliman tells the Journal.

    Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that ISPs such as Time Warner Cable have been very public about dragging their feet on aggressively upgrading the quality of their networks and they’ve repeatedly said that most of their customers don’t “need” super-fast Internet connections. While that might have been true in the past, the rise of Netflix and other streaming services means that things are about to change very quickly for ISPs. While they may be right that Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are putting greater strains on their networks, they can’t say they weren’t warned.



    2-19-14

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  2. sparkyscott21

    sparkyscott21 Moderator Staff Member

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    Comcast has said repeatedly that it has no intention of throttling Netflix’s traffic and there may be a good reason to believe it’s telling the truth. Not because Comcastexecutives are benevolent cherubs, of course, but more because they’re smart enough to know that throttling Netflix’s traffic would lead to a public relations battle that they would lose very, very badly.

    CNN brings word that Netflix’s customer satisfaction has hit a three-year high according to a new survey by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index and has been steadily recovering from the hit to customer satisfaction it took three years ago that the ACSI says “was inflicted by the 2011 increase in fees.”

    What does this have to do with Comcast? Well the ACSI last year found that Comcast was the most disliked ISP in the United States, which is pretty remarkable given that Americans now hold their ISPs as a whole in even lower esteem than airlines.

    Now imagine that Comcast gets caught intentionally slowing down Netflix’s traffic and Netflix makes a major stink about it in public. This would pit one of the most liked companies in the United States against one of the least liked companies in the United States and Comcast knows that Netflix would absolutely clobber it in the court of public opinion. In fact, messing with people’s Netflix streams might be the only thing that could get the general public to rally behind new net neutrality regulations, which is something that Comcast really doesn’t want to see.



    2-19-14

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  3. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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  4. ChrisG8

    ChrisG8 Well-Known Member

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    I just checked the Netflix Example Short 23.976 with embedded bandwidth metering, I only got 3850kbps, previously it tested at 5800kbps. I gave it a minute to ramp up, I don't know if Comcast did something to reduce Netflix data usage here or not. I will check again in a few days.
     
  5. Carlszone

    Carlszone Well-Known Member

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    Hi

    I don't normally side w/the cable companies, but Netfilx must fix this even if it means paying higher costs to ISPs. Not being able to stream content is more important than a higher subscription fee. In the long run cable will be deemed the enemy of consumers everywhere. Then the attrition will begin to take full effect. Broadband providers not affiliated w/cable will become the norm if they can, like Google, provide their own infrastructure.

    Not likely, but we can hope...

    Carl
     
  6. jonw747

    jonw747 Well-Known Member

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    Verizon has plenty of bandwidth and as customers we are paying out the nose for the right to use that bandwidth. It's just a shame that customers should get stuck in the middle of a money grab. It would be nice if the FCC stepped in and straightened this out somehow.
     
  7. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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    Just to play devil's advocate - Netflix had to know that "opening up the floodgates" to SuperHD for everyone (irregardless of whether the ISPs had joined the Netflix Open Connect platform) would result in slowdowns that are happening now.

    I think Netflix could see that most of the big ISPs had no intention of joining the Open Connect platform - so this is an attempt by Netflix to force the hands of the ISPs. Remember previously SuperHD content was only available to Netflix users whose ISP had joined the Open Connect platform. And when done in that manner there weren't the large-scale slow downs that some Netflix users are experiencing now.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2014
  8. Carlszone

    Carlszone Well-Known Member

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    True...

    But Cat, where is the solution???

    That's all that concerns me...
     
  9. ChrisG8

    ChrisG8 Well-Known Member

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    The ultimate solution has to be that Netflix Super HD can't be delivered for $8/month, it will have to cost more. I have been using over 300GB/month since Netflix started offering it to me, using Comcast. Something has to give, I don't think the ISPs can be expected to handle the burden with no additional revenue. It is a great service however so the price increase will be justified.
     
  10. Carlszone

    Carlszone Well-Known Member

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    I can't disagree...

    But how much more the cable companies might want is another matter all together. Look, I don't want to get into another war w/ya, but ya gotta know that cable companies can be unreasonable as far as licensing fees are concerned.

    Geeze, they annihilated the competition in my area. The FCC will of course eventually step in, but at what cost???

    Where are the Broadband providers of the past...

    Carl
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2014
  11. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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    Netflix's 'House Of Cards' Return Ate Up A Huge Amount Of Bandwidth (click for full article)

    by Sam Gutelle - Feb. 20, 2014

    -- Want to know why some Internet service providers want Netflix to pay for the bandwidth it eats up? Look no further than the February 14th debut of House of Cards' second season. During the long President's Day weekend following the return of the Kevin Spacey-led political thriller, Netflix viewers pushed downstream bandwidth to its limits across three 12-hour periods.


    Internet service providers offer a fixed amount of bandwidth, and several recent reports have found that Netflix, on a normal day, eats up much more of that bandwidth than any other site. House of Cards debut caused Netflix to use even more bandwidth than normal, and for the busiest 12-hour periods, both Verizon and Comcast continued to supply the maximum amount of bandwidth.


    So massive was House of Cards' traffic that it reportedly caused other sites, such as music streaming service SomaFM, to experience poor speeds. Even so, Netflix paid the same amount of money (nothing) to present Frank Underwood to the entire Internet as SomaFKM paid to get jammed up. This sort of traffic explains exactly why ISPs like Verizon want Netflix to pay up for the gigantic amount of data it uses.


    - See more at: Netflix's 'House Of Cards' Return Ate Up A Huge Amount Of Bandwidth
     
  12. sparkyscott21

    sparkyscott21 Moderator Staff Member

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    One thing we’ve heard and will continue to hear over the next several months is thatthe proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger will be an awesome deal for consumers because it will give the newly formed cable giant the ability to really invest in aggressive network upgrades. Writing at Bloomberg Businessweek, Brendan Greeley gives us some good reasons to treat this argument with a great deal of skepticism because we’ve largely let ISPs consolidate to their hearts’ content and it’s done us very little good.

    “The utterly consistent position from the ISPs has been this: Guarantee us a higher income stream from a more concentrated market, and we’ll build out new infrastructure to reach more Americans with high-speed Internet,” he writes. “A decade ago, this argument had at least the benefit of being untested. Now things are much simpler:
    We know that the ISPs’ argument has been wrong.”

    One turning point for American broadband came last decade when the Federal Communications Commission rolled back the old common carrier rules that forced incumbent telecom companies such as Verizon and AT&T to allow ISPs such as Earthlink to buy space on their DSL broadband networks at discount prices. The incumbent telecom carriers successfully lobbied the FCC to revoke these rules in 2005 by arguing that rival cable companies weren’t required to let other ISPs use their networks and thus had an unfair competitive advantage over the telcos.

    The result is that competition for last-mile services among small startups is all but dead and America is now lagging behind other countries in terms of broadband subscribers per capita. According to statistics compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, America has slipped from No. 10 in the world in broadband connections per 100 people to No. 16 over the past 10 years, which Greeley says is a sign that our approach to spreading broadband adoption has failed.

    “We have chosen, instead, to guarantee duopoly profits to our phone and cable incumbents, and in return have begged them to roll out more infrastructure,” he says. “And for the past decade, telecom companies have pointed proudly in press releases to the amount of money spent on infrastructure. They have also lobbied to prevent the FCC from knowing too much about just what they spent or where they spent it.”



    2-21-14

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  13. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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    Breaking: Netflix and Comcast have reached a peering agreement ? Tech News and Analysis (click for full article)

    by Stacey Higginbotham - Feb. 21, 2014

    -- Consumers' troubles with online video may be subsiding - at least for Comcast customers. Comcast and Netflix appear to have resolved their differences over network peering, which has frustrated many Netflix users over the last few months with slow, intermittent service as a result of the dispute over the business of interconnecting networks.


    Bryan Berg, a co-founder of App.net, posted a traceroute on Github Friday showing traffic data between Netflix and Comcast that appears to show the two companies have come to some sort of direct interconnection agreement (hat tip to Dan Gillmor who noticed the Berg post.). Multiple sources in the industry say that interpretation is correct, but declined to comment further. One source noted that it was a recent development. The two firms are peering in the Equinix San Jose data center, based on the traceroute.


    The first question is if this is a paid peering agreement or a settlement-free agreement, where both sides agree to exchange traffic for free. Peering is an arrangement between two bandwidth providers - the companies that control the physical backbone of the internet - in which they send and receive traffic from each other for free. The logic is that the traffic sent from one network to another is reciprocated without adding extra costs and hurdles. This makes the web more efficient and redundant because companies don't need to build out a network to connect every single service to every person who wants to consume that service.


    See more at: http://gigaom.com/2014/02/21/comcast-netflix-peering/
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2014
  14. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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  15. sparkyscott21

    sparkyscott21 Moderator Staff Member

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    The Wall Street Journal on Sunday broke the story that Netflix is going to pay Comcast so that Netflix’s streaming subscribers will have access to a smooth viewing experience. Not only does this put a crimp in Netflix’s business model, but it could also mean that the era of net neutrality as we know it is dead.

    While the terms of the deal were unannounced, Netflix is said to get direct access to Comcast’s broadband network. The connection Netflix is getting is known as “paid peering,” which allows Netflix’s network to connect directly to Comcast’s network. Prior to the deal, Netflix used intermediaries to access Comcast’s network.

    Following the report, both companies confirmed the deal, noting it’s “a mutually beneficial interconnection agreement that will provide Comcast’s U.S. broadband customers with a high-quality Netflix video experience for years to come.” Both companies said the negotiations had been going on for many months, and that Netflix receives no preferential network treatment under the multi-year agreement.”

    The timing of the announcement is fortuitous, just two weeks after Comcast announced it intends to buy Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal, creating the largest cable and broadband provider in the United States.

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings decided to do the deal with Comcast after the company saw a massive drop in streaming speeds for Comcast subscribers.

    In January, the average speed for Comcast subscribers fell to 1.51 megabytes per second, down from 1.63 in December. This is a marked drop, and is concerning for Netflix, because its 33 million domestic streaming subscribers rely on high-speed Internet connections to make paying $7.99 a month worth it. Otherwise, if consumers just see a spinning wheel, representing buffering, Netflix could potentially lose subscribers. Netflix shares trade on the amount of subscribers it adds each quarter, so this is an incredibly important metric for the company in the long-term.

    By striking a long-term deal with Comcast now, Hastings has conceded that Comcast has won the game for access speed, but it’s better to admit defeat now, then continue to wait and hope the situation gets better over tie. Already, we’ve seen Netflix speeds get tethered at Verizon, something the New York-based telecom denies, but it’s clear that it’s going on, looking at various logs.

    This hurt Netflix’s business model, as the company said in its shareholder letter, as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can now “legally impede the video streams that members request from Netflix, degrading the experience we jointly provide.” In the letter, Hastings wrote, “The motivation could be to get Netflix to pay fees to stop this degradation. Were this draconian scenario to unfold with some ISP, we would vigorously protest and encourage our members to demand the open Internet they are paying their ISP to deliver.”

    It’s clear that Hastings did not “vigorously protest,” and he realized that he’s fighting a losing battle, with not only Comcast, but other ISPs as well.

    Not only does it hurt Netflix, and put a strain on the company’s cash hoard, but it hurts start-up companies, which rely on cheap broadband, to continue to build out their wares and services. A company like WhatsApp, which just got bought by Facebook for $19 billion in cash, stock and restricted stock, may wind up having to pay more for access to data centers as user growth explodes. This is a very dangerous situation, and is something worth watching.

    With the Netflix/Comcast deal official, it will only place more scrutiny on the proposed Comcast, Time Warner merger from not only the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but also the Department of Justice (DOJ) as well. Hopefully this causes the DOJ and the FCC to perk up and pay attention to what’s going on, as broadband providers begin to exert more influence over content providers. Otherwise, net neutrality really is dead, and consumers are going to likely have to pay more, perhaps much more, to view the latest episode of House of Cards and Walking Dead — and the start-up boom we’ve seen in the past four or five years is likely to go bust.



    2-24-14

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