Netflix Rather Quietly Admits Verizon Isn't Throttling Netflix Streams

from the crying-wolf dept

A lot was made last week of the blog post by iScan developer David Raphael, who managed to get a front line Verizon support tech to admit Verizon was intentionally throttling Netflix streams (and essentially anything hosted on AWS) for home FiOS users. The resulting press cacophony largely consisted of outlets claiming that this was indisputable proof positive Verizon was violating net neutrality. Except as we noted previously, while anti-competitive shenanigans certainly aren’t out of character for the telco, there really wasn’t enough actual evidence proving that the problem wasn’t the result of peering, routing, or other congestion issues, the kind that Netflix and YouTube users have been complaining about for much of the last year.

While some believe Verizon might be intentionally letting peering links saturate to their own benefit, the company issued repeated statements denying traffic discrimination, and blaming Netflix for the problems. Strangely Netflix wouldn’t comment to anyone in the press on what was happening, but the company did for whatever reason feel free to tell J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth privately that Verizon is not throttling Netflix streams:

“J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth…says he has been talking to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells, and they told him they don’t think cable and telco companies are hampering the company’s video streams. Anmuth doesn’t have much to report on the topic, so here are his comments in their entirety: “Netflix does not seem overly concerned regarding Net Neutrality, and continues to believe that violations would be escalated quickly. Netflix also indicated that it has no evidence or belief that its service is being throttled.”

Granted no “evidence or belief” doesn’t mean Verizon isn’t up to no good; the company has made an art form out of using bogus technical jargon to justify anti-competitive and closed behavior, especially on their wireless network. But the admission from Netflix (which sees a lot of the obfuscated peering data consumers don’t) at least suggests Netflix can’t prove it. It’s not like Netflix has any vested interest in lying for Verizon’s sake either; the company just got done threatening ISPs in an investor letter (pdf) that if ISPs were caught manipulating traffic anti-competitively, Netflix would “vigorously protest and encourage our members to demand the open Internet they are paying their ISP to deliver.”

The entire story continues to be kind of fascinating in that despite press comments from a universe of very smart networking experts who claim to know what’s going on, nobody actually knows what’s going on. The full data simply isn’t available to the public. A lot of people are claiming they’re seeing throttling by their ISP, only to later realize they’re not seeing the full picture. Claiming net neutrality every time the network farts is dangerous in that if we keep crying neutrality wolf without indisputable supporting evidence, less attention will ultimately come when a violation does truly occur.

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Companies: netflix, verizon

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Comments on “Netflix Rather Quietly Admits Verizon Isn't Throttling Netflix Streams”

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edpo says:


Netflix is obviously taking the tactic of not saying anything publicly that hampers private negotiations. They’re the 600 pound gorilla now on the content side. They don’t need to be fueling blogs with incendiary quotes. No corporate communications department would ever think that was the right approach, so I’m not sure what this TD post is actually saying other than the obvious.

Verizon went to COURT to maintain the ability to control traffic on their wires as they want, and AT&T went for a PATENT to do the same. Look at what companies are actually doing and spending their money on, instead of worrying about how to read PR speak.

Anonymous Coward says:

All I know is that if I use U-Tune through the local AT&T system I get very different hang up rates [times when the program freezes] depending on content.

One U-Tube 10 minute podcast will hang up 5 or 10 times causing total time required for viewing to be greater than the time required for a hour long complete move to play without interruption.

At times one move will play the next refuses to play, one pod cast will play the next will not.

I can then go to a non AT&T system and the pod cast will play correctly.

As far as this being limited to pod cast it is not. I only used the expression of pod cast as a short hand easy to use explanation of a very short presentation.

The only aspects of this I understand is that month after month cost goes up and quality goes down.

aldestrawk says:

I can tell you of an instance where AT&T was throttling my bandwidth and the evidence is fairly convincing. This happened a few years ago at my home. I have DSL service through AT&T but I use a different ISP, namely Cruzio who has a contract with AT&T for providing the DSL infrastructure and service to each customer. My service rate is nominally 1.5 Mbps but I generally test out at a download max of 1.3 Mbps. I live in a rural area so, yep, I can’t get faster DSL service. One day I noticed videos were pausing unexpectedly. I ran a speed test. The max download rate was consistently 384 Kbps. That was a very suspicious number and suggested that my line had been capped at that rate at the central office. I called Cruzio and asked if they knew what the problem was. The service rep said that they had a number of Cruzio customers who had recently run into that exact problem in my area. They said they would call AT&T. Less than ten minutes later my max download rate was back up to 1.3 Mbps. This problem has not occurred again.
My theory is that AT&T had a capacity problem at that central office as folk in the area were increasingly adopting DSL in place of dial-up internet service. AT&T decided to handle this in a surreptitious way by capping individual DSL rates at a fraction of what my agreement with Cruzio stated and, undoubtedly, in violation of Cruzio’s contract with AT&T. Those who complained were uncapped but those who didn’t suffered, perhaps unknowingly, with a lower rate. This may well have been temporary until equipment updates at the central office increased total throughput. It does show that the telecoms are willing to quietly shaft their customers. Mine was a general problem, not just throughput from a particular site like Netflix. In the latter case, as this article points out, it is impossible for the end-user to know if a rate problem is not due to congestion rather than deliberate capping.

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