If Netflix Isn’t Working It Might Be Your ISP’s Fault
If it's not your connection or your hardware, it might be your ISP
February 12, 2014 by Grant Clauser

Have you been banging your remote, or your router, on the coffee table because Netflix doesn’t seem to be working the way it used to? You’re not alone, and it may not be your fault.

A few months ago we posted a feature promoting the importance of a robust home network to support our growing reliance in IP-distributed and streaming media. We also suggested that for most people, assuming you have a decent broadband pipe coming into your home, that problems of streaming audio and video were more likely the fault of your network architecture (such as a cheap router or bad Wi-Fi signal) than the fault or the streaming provider (such as Netflix) or your ISP.

Um, well, if you have Comcast or Verizon, then we may have been wrong.

Netflix monitors the speeds of the ISPs it delivers its service through and publishes the results on its web site. This week the site Consumerist took a peek at the most recent results and noticed something interesting. Both Verizon FiOS and Comcast speeds took a nose dive last fall.

While most ISPs went up or stayed level over the last 12 months, the two biggest slowed down considerably. In October of 2013 Comcast was plowing a reasonable 2.07 Mbps but dove to 1.51Mbps in January 2014. Verizon’s FiOS service similarly went from 2.22Mbps to 1.82Mbps in the same period. You need at least 2 Mbps for HD quality.


The green line is Comcast. The gray one is Verizon.

Could this be why you can’t get Orange is the New Black in HD anymore? Very likely.

Why would this happen? Consumerist speculates that there may be some active throttling involved by the ISPs. Both Verizon and Comcast have been accused of doing just that (and denied it), and the fact that the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules were stomped recently makes the future look even bleaker for customers of Netflix over Comcast and Verizon.

Both Verizon and Comcast view streaming video, especially Netflix as competition. Those darn cord-cutters are cutting into ComRizon’s bottom line. In fact Verizon teamed up with Redbox to offer a streaming video of its own last year, though a recent report predicts that deal may be ending soon.

I’ve noticed in my own FiOS-connected home that Netflix has been dragging anchor for months. Amazon’s streaming service, at least in my home, doesn’t seem to be experiencing the same data drop, so the Netflix throttling theory makes sense.

If you’re having this issue with Netflix, first check your own download speed. If you’re using Wi-Fi to connect your device (Roku, Smart TV, Xbox…) try a wire to see if that helps.

If you think this is bad, consider what happens when you take home a new 4K TV and expect to start streaming 4K movies via Netflix? If you’ve got Verizon or Comcast—good luck. Netflix has stated that 4K will require about 15Mbps.

Let me know if you’re a Comcast or Verizon FiOS customer and have noticed the same problem.

More related articles:
LG to Start Streaming Netflix in 4K
Maximizing Your Network for Streaming Media
Inside Vivint’s Automated ‘Zero Home’ with High-speed Wi-Fi

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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