Netflix Seem Slower? You're Not Imagining Things

Site's bandwidth usage spurs disagreements with providers

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 19, 2014 10:28 AM CST

(Newser) – If your Netflix account seems to be running slower than usual these days, that's because it very likely is slower. Traffic conflicts between the service and major broadband providers—especially Verizon FiOS—are resulting in a slowdown, Wall Street Journal reports. Netflix says its average primetime speeds for Verizon customers sank 14% in January, though performance has been getting progressively slower via many broadband providers since November, around the time when Netflix made super-HD video available to all users, possibly ramping up the traffic load. Fees are at the heart of the issue: Netflix is pushing top providers to link to its new "Open Connect" distribution system, but Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T want payment before they'll do it.

Central to the problem is Netflix's heavy bandwidth usage; at times, it's responsible for a third of peak online traffic in North America, analysts say. According to Verizon's rules, networks should pay if they're putting out more data than they're carrying. As it stands, Netflix uses middlemen like Cogent Communications to carry traffic, and those carriers dish out far more than they take back. Both Netflix and Verizon could take steps to help fix the problem, which will likely play a role in federal regulators' decision on the Comcast-Time Warner merger, the Journal notes. Meanwhile, recent rankings, via Ars Technica, show Time Warner and Verizon in sixth and seventh place, respectively, when it comes to Netflix speed. Google Fiber tops the list.

In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass.
In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass.   (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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