Is Netflix Strangling the Internet?

posted at 11:30 am on May 22, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

For those keeping score on the battles, both civilian and government, over bandwidth usage on the web, the latest report from Sandvine will grab some attention. They examine who is responsible for hogging all the data flow rate in the series of tubes and quickly determine the culprit… Netflix.

Sandvine, (TSX:SVC; AIM:SAND) a leading provider of intelligent broadband network solutions for fixed and mobile operators, today announced the release of their Global Internet Phenomena Report: Spring 2011, including Internet trends from North America, Latin America and Europe, with specific spotlights on events such as Netflix adoption and March Madness® On Demand. Overall insights since the last report in the fall of 2010, reveal a growing appetite for on-demand applications that will continue to drive data consumption and network quality requirements.

Major findings from the report include:

In North America, Netflix is now 29.7% of peak downstream traffic and has become the largest source of Internet traffic overall. Currently, Real-Time Entertainment applications consume 49.2% of peak aggregate traffic, up from 29.5% in 2009 – a 60% increase [see figure 3]. Sandvine forecasts that the Real-Time Entertainment category will represent 55-60% of peak aggregate traffic by the end of 2011.

If you didn’t bother to check any further it might be reasonable to assume that the online movie streaming provider was eating up the web, given the popularity of the service and the amount of data being transferred when shipping an entire movie across the web. But is this really accurate? According to IT World… not so much.

A report issued Tuesday showing Netflix makes up a third of total Internet traffic is inaccurate enough – or at least the reports about it are inaccurate enough – to show not very many people in either the press or vendor marketing understand the network they base their business on.

First, the report didn’t say Netflix eats a third of the whole Internet; that assumption was off base enough to prompt Forbes to run a piece trying to correct it, but not quite succeeding.

Sandvine – an Ontario-based networking vendor – issued a report Tuesday estimating that streaming media from Netflix make up 30 percent of downstream traffic during peak times.

What Sandvine meant was that Netflix traffic spiked heavily during prime time – when most people are home and watching something other than what’s on TV – but only across the last mile.

The report goes into considerable detail which is well worth the time to pore over, but it boils down to a few verbal gymnastics being performed by providers to lay the blame on popular streaming services. First, the “last mile” reference is shorthand for describing the fact that Netflix distributes their digital content to a vast number of local delivery hubs. When a request for a film is made, it doesn’t stream across the entire spine server conglomeration, but only between the user’s home and the local server.

Further, there are times when Netflix is the peak user of bandwidth, but it’s only for a brief window in the evenings when business traffic slows and subscribers are at home watching something other than network or cable TV.

So who are truly the major data hogs? It’s the service providers themselves who have to justify every upgrade and make their own streaming offerings appear cost competitive.

It’s the effort to upgrade the nets to support their own streaming-media services, which not only compete with Netflix, but also come supported by internal business cases that have to show how quickly each new major upgrade will pay for itself through new services or the ability to support more subscribers.

Upgrades justified to regulators by saying Netflix is about to bring down the Internet go into the books under the category Gravy, and slide straight down to Net Profit at the bottom of the page.

Gamers and streaming movie fans should educate themselves on these costs when dealing with providers who want to throttle them back or push their own services as “more affordable options” which may well provide less content.

EDIT: I’ll be sure to pore over the text more carefully next time I’m writing after pouring a martini that early in the day.

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I dig my Netflix.

deedtrader on May 22, 2011 at 11:33 AM

Clearly, the private sector needs to be stopped.

Paging Cass Sunstein.

PappyD61 on May 22, 2011 at 11:34 AM

I have had the same 2 netflix movies for over a year. My bad. I really need to update my membership and stop wasting money!!!!!!!!

karenhasfreedom on May 22, 2011 at 11:36 AM

deedtrader on May 22, 2011 at 11:33 AM

2nd that…

cmsinaz on May 22, 2011 at 11:37 AM

So, are they going to go after Netflix for having the audacity of being successful by providing a service to those who want it, i.e., the little people?

Blake on May 22, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Jazz- “pore” over, not “pour.”

greggriffith on May 22, 2011 at 11:39 AM

ISPs are looking for any excuse to meter your bandwidth instead of upgrading their infrastructure.

Ortzinator on May 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM

In a strange coincidence, I just finished watching the new sherlock holmes series. I liked it a lot.

Mord on May 22, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Netflix Managment Czar in 3… 2… 1….

Koa on May 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Jazz- “pore” over, not “pour.”

greggriffith on May 22, 2011 at 11:39 AM

No one would have ever known including me….

theaddora on May 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM

ISPs are looking for any excuse to meter your bandwidth instead of upgrading their infrastructure.

Ortzinator on May 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Exactly, a few years ago torrents were the boogeyman, in fact, that was the justification given for some ISP’s to start dipping their toes into metered service. Video, especially high quality video, uses a lot of data and it’s not going anywhere so the ISP’s are simply trying to strangle it instead of investing in a system that can handle it.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Netflix Rocks…

There’s a story up at AOL/HuffPoop about how YouTube might have Netflix worried…

What a joke….I’ll tell you who needs to be worried…HBO/Starz and all the other movie channels…I think the only thing keeping them afloat now is their original serries…

BigWyo on May 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Well Netflix is successful and amost single handedly defeated the poorly run juggernaut Blockbuster. So, it stands to reason that the liberals will start to look at them as evil and try to slowly begin to destroy them.

jeffn21 on May 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

A la carte, on demand television. Netflix is leading the way. Lots of grumbling, hand wringing, and lawsuits will fly as cable and satellite and broadcast die a slow death into obsolescence… Companies like verizon will try to enter a market like this as an entertainment company and will suck ast it, not their core competency.

maineconservative on May 22, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Netflix and Starbucks…..two of the joys of life…..And the government will eventually ruin both of them…..

theaddora on May 22, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Netflix is the best thing that’s happened to me in years. (Yes, I’m pathetic) So it just stands to reason that some a-h is going to mess with it.

itsacookbook on May 22, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Kill netflix and force people back into the theaters.
hmmmm… Thanks Hollywood.

The war on the web and its control continues.

William Amos on May 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Since the advent of net-enabled tv’s, blu-ray players and game boxes, I am surprised some net-job health care expert hasn’t declared all those mps. are harming the children and the planet.

fourdeucer on May 22, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Netflix has been great for those of us who live in rural areas. Not too many Blockbusters in may area. Of course, for the current powers that be, that is all the more reason to bring them down.

humdinger on May 22, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Music will be next..
any song, and era, any time….

IF the dinosaur labels get the heck out of the way!

golfmann on May 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Netflix has been great for those of us who live in rural areas. Not too many Blockbusters in may area. Of course, for the current powers that be, that is all the more reason to bring them down.

humdinger on May 22, 2011 at 12:02 PM

The Feds hate us country folks.
They evidently won’t be happy til we’re all caged in cities, doing their bidding 24/7.

And I was seriously looking into Netflix since we got broadband out here in the stix (thanks fellow taxpayers!).

Badger40 on May 22, 2011 at 12:09 PM

As a supporter of Net Neutrality who has made exactly these kinds of statements over and over in the comments, only to be called a socialist or worse, it’s nice to have my position on why Comcast (and other ISPs) is so dead-set against Net Neutrality finally vindicated by a poster here on HotAir.

We here on the internet prize the fact that we can connect up to any other public site using any TCP/IP port and whatever data we sent to the site gets there, and any data the site sends back gets to us, because TCP/IP is a reliable, guaranteed delivery, transport. [I ignore best effort but unreliable UDP/IP used primarily by gamers] The fact that bandwidth might be throttled (either by contracted value or by congestion) is an issue which each protocol must handle it’s own way to be viable, and most, such as netflix or youtube, do. When ISPs (such as Comcast) start playing games with the TCP/IP protocol by sending reset or termination packets, or silently dropping content (such as what was briefly done to Netflix), the question of their customer’s rights to uncensored access to content comes to the fore.

When I look at what my ISP provides service wise, there are several bandwidth-limited offerings; within those bandwidth limitations, there is a contracted requirement for best-effort delivery — which means that the ISP is indemnified against network congestion, but that the ISP cannot deliberately not attempt delivery of your packets. Now, every ISP has peering arrangements with other ISPs, and those peering arrangements also specify best-effort delivery. The Internet, being a set of interconnected tubes, is sensitive to stoppages of any sort. The protocols are such that if Comcast deliberately drops packets, the network gradually figures out that something is broken in Comcast land and tries to route around it. This works well where packets have alternate paths around Comcast’s network, but is ineffectual when one of the endpoints is squarely in the middle of Comcast’s network (as will be the case for any Comcast subscriber). Far worse is the artificial creation and transmission of RST or FIN/ACK packets by Comcast, which cause both sides to close their connection because they think the other side has gone away — this is censorship at its worst — the deliberate sabotage of attempts to deliver data.

I have no trouble in believing Sandvine’s claims of peak bandwidth consumption — for streaming high definition movies will be highly consumptive of bandwidth.

I also have no trouble with providers charging for network usage by either volume or instantaneous bandwidth. What I do have trouble with is providers who censor our content, either because (like Comcast) they offer a competing service or because they deliberately want to shift transiting packets onto their peers (in violation of their own peering arrangements).

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Of course, for the current powers that be, that is all the more reason to bring them down.

humdinger on May 22, 2011 at 12:02 PM

The current powers that be being monopolistic ISPs, of course.

ernesto on May 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

NetFlix is next…

ladyingray on May 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

I hate netflix. They spend time developing for ridiculous platforms (like phones and hand-held game devices) and yet they totally neglect linux. There is no reason they can’t do it, there already are some specialized internet TV boxes which run on linux that support it, not to mention apple OSX support.

clement on May 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Sorta OT:

I’m interested in Netflix, but when I go to their website, it seems like there’s not a vast catalog to choose from.

Is it like the old Columbia House CD’s thingy, where the initial ad where you pick and choose there’s a limited amount of choice, but once you’re in you get this large catalog of tons of choices ??

Thanks in advance for any help ….. I’d like to join since Blockbuster moved out on me, but the choices on their website seem limited.

Jerome Horwitz on May 22, 2011 at 12:14 PM

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Dear Uncle,
This isn’t a net neutrality question or an issue of asking Uncle Sam to ride in and “save” us. It’s a question of having informed consumers aware of the billing rates they pay, the service they receive, and voting with their wallets / feet while providing feedback to the various providers. It’s how the free market works. You should really look into trying it.

Jazz Shaw on May 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM

HBO. I wouldn’t spend one dime with any network that hired Bill Maher.

RADIOONE on May 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM

Exactly, a few years ago torrents were the boogeyman, in fact, that was the justification given for some ISP’s to start dipping their toes into metered service. Video, especially high quality video, uses a lot of data and it’s not going anywhere so the ISP’s are simply trying to strangle it instead of investing in a system that can handle it.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

There are associated stories that BT traffic has decreased as Netflix has increase showing, in the author’s opinion, that people truly rather pay a reasonable fee rather than pirate.

****
I’m sure it’s been mentioned but in case it hasn’t, Comcast charges Netflix a fee for serving Comcast customers. It’s called the “Netflix” tax.

****

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 12:10 PM

I’m with you on Net Nuetrality. That doesn’t mean I support the FCC overstepping its authority to achieve it however.

TheBigOldDog on May 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

There are less than 10 destinations that account for about 85% of the backbone traffic. Google (includes YouTube), Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo, Microsoft (includes MSN, hotmail, windows update, Bing, etc.), Twitter, and such account for most of it.

crosspatch on May 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

ISPs are looking for any excuse to meter your bandwidth instead of upgrading their infrastructure.

Ortzinator on May 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Sure…but to upgrade costs them $ so why wouldn’t they do that? Why should someone who uses far less bandwidth have to pay the same amount for those who use more?

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 22, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Exactly, a few years ago torrents were the boogeyman, in fact, that was the justification given for some ISP’s to start dipping their toes into metered service. Video, especially high quality video, uses a lot of data and it’s not going anywhere so the ISP’s are simply trying to strangle it instead of investing in a system that can handle it.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Reminds me a little of what happened when Sega Channel forced cable companies to upgrade their equipment and signal quality, which usually ranged from mediocre to cr@p. Oh the stink they made…

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 22, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Netflix doesn’t use any bandwidth on my account. I won’t have anything to do with them. They are by far the worst offenders where popups are concerned. Anybody who annoys me that much with their advertising has no chance of getting any business from me.

backwoods conservative on May 22, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Well Netflix is successful and amost single handedly defeated the poorly run juggernaut Blockbuster. So, it stands to reason that the liberals will start to look at them as evil and try to slowly begin to destroy them.

jeffn21 on May 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

But Netflix is owned by a liberal.
(I am a Netflix subscriber, because there’s no alternative)

itsnotaboutme on May 22, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Just wait until July 1st when the complete episodes of Star Trek, Star Trek:TNG, Star Trek:Voyager, and Star Trek:Enterprise come to Netflix Instant Watch. There won’t be enough tubes for the customers. And if we survive that, the complete episodes of Star Trek: DS9 start streaming on October 15th.

The Internet is doomed I tell you, doomed!

PackerBronco on May 22, 2011 at 12:36 PM

hate netflix. They spend time developing for ridiculous platforms (like phones and hand-held game devices) and yet they totally neglect linux. There is no reason they can’t do it, there already are some specialized internet TV boxes which run on linux that support it, not to mention apple OSX support.

clement on May 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

I say this as a former computer programmer who still has a hard drive partition with Ubuntu on it: Nobody cares about Linux: You’re joking, right? I don’t know anyone who uses a Linux OS who couldn’t also explain the difference between a standard binary search and a red-black algorithm. And even amongst that miniscule subset of the market, most of those folks will have Windows too.

Besides, can you imagine the nightmare of providing support for all the variations of Linux? I spent an easy eight hours getting Ubuntu to work with my WiFi card, and then another five getting my soundcard to work. Why on earth would they wan to open the Pandora’s Box of Linux support for a practically non-existent user base?

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Wow. I’m amazed after reading the IT World article.

Amazed in the sense that almost everything they said was factually incorrect or misleading. Whoever wrote it has approximately zero clue about broadband infrastructure.

Hollowpoint on May 22, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Netflix is the bomb.
Get a Roku box and turn any of your televisions into Internet TV’s.
I just go done watching “Tora Tora Tora”, “The Gallant Hours” and I’m half way through “Midway”.
Life is good.

PackerBronco on May 22, 2011 at 12:38 PM

I spent an easy eight hours getting Ubuntu to work with my WiFi card,

Congrats, never did get mine to work with Ubuntu.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 12:40 PM

There are movies worth renting anymore?

rbj on May 22, 2011 at 12:42 PM

And no, net neutrality isn’t needed to keep the 1′s and 0′s flowing. Look at the mobile phone market, people are willing to pay for unlimited data and the companies have to compete for those customers, ISP’s ignore that at their peril, people will go to the providers that offer unlimited data. Government stepping in will only impede that competition and hurt consumers in the long run.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

They are by far the worst offenders where popups are concerned. Anybody who annoys me that much with their advertising has no chance of getting any business from me.

backwoods conservative on May 22, 2011 at 12:32 PM

They annoy you because they pay for all the websites you enjoy?

pedestrian on May 22, 2011 at 12:51 PM

What Sandvine meant was that Netflix traffic spiked heavily during prime time – when most people are home and watching something other than what’s on TV – but only across the last mile.

This is a lie- the “last mile” refers to the line between the provider node / DSLAM (be it in a central office or remote terminal). Netflix traffic- just like any other- doesn’t and can’t traverse the last mile without first riding over the ISP backbone, internodal trunks, etc. That their distribution hubs are “close” to the customer doesn’t change that.

Furthermore, that the vast amount of Netflix traffic occurs primarily during peak hours is the problem- it occurs when ISP network congestion most commonly takes place.

Hollowpoint on May 22, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 12:36 PM

How many people do you suppose want to watch netflix on a nintendo 3ds? 2 maybe 3 people, and only to say they did, once? Yet they are working on it. Same thing with android phone (also based on linux kernel). Linux is a much bigger market of people who would actually USE their software.

clement on May 22, 2011 at 12:53 PM

I don’t care who is eating up bandwidth during the evening, it hoses my latencies to the servers I connect to. And my ISP refuses to do anything to upgrade their network. It even messes up netflix, and an HD movie suddenly becomes low quality because there is more traffic than the bandwidth can handle.

sadatoni on May 22, 2011 at 12:56 PM

ISPs are looking for any excuse to meter your bandwidth instead of upgrading their infrastructure.

Ortzinator on May 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Exactly how much should they have to spend in order for Netflix to make a profit? How many businesses are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the sake of 5% of their customers?

Every ISP out there has had to upgrade their infrastructure; the amount of data consumed per user keeps increasing quarter after quarter, year after year, and has for years.

Hollowpoint on May 22, 2011 at 12:58 PM

They annoy you because they pay for all the websites you enjoy?

pedestrian on May 22, 2011 at 12:51 PM

The method annoys me. If somebody places an ad in plain sight on a webpage, fine. I have no problem with that. If their ad opens a separate window that I have to close, they’ve crossed the line and are engaging in rude behavior.

“I won’t tolerate rude behavior!”

–Woodrow Call, Lonesome Dove

backwoods conservative on May 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM

And no, net neutrality isn’t needed to keep the 1′s and 0′s flowing. Look at the mobile phone market, people are willing to pay for unlimited data and the companies have to compete for those customers, ISP’s ignore that at their peril, people will go to the providers that offer unlimited data. Government stepping in will only impede that competition and hurt consumers in the long run.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

That’s not the issue. The issue is ISPs discriminating based on the source of traffic and not informing customers. Examples are Comcast with BT and now Netflix. With BT, they surreptitiously intercepted traffic and broke connections without informing customers. They denied it until the proof was overwhelming. If Netflix (which I pay for) wants to stream a movie to me over my Comcast connection (which I pay for) Netflix must pay Comcast a fee – (which I pay for). Now, I wonder where Comcast disclosed that to me? What’s next, will I have to pay extra to get to Google is Comcast does a deal with Bing?

Imagine if AT&T refused to allow some calls from Verizon subscribers to reach AT&T customers and never disclosed it.

That’s the issue. Private companies should be able to manage their networks any way they please but they should be forced to disclose it so consumers can make informed decisions and should not lock you into long-term contracts that say one thing while they decide to do another.

What’s the Problem Here?

Discrimination: The Internet was designed as an open medium. The fundamental idea since the Internet’s inception has been that every Web site, every feature and every service should be treated without discrimination. That’s how bloggers can compete with CNN or USA Today for readers. That’s how up-and-coming musicians can build underground audiences before they get their first top-40 single. That’s why when you use a search engine, you see a list of the sites that are the closest match to your request — not those that paid the most to reach you. Discrimination endangers our basic Internet freedoms.

Double-dipping: Traditionally, network owners have built a business model by charging consumers for Internet access. Now they want to charge you for access to the network, and then charge you again for the things you do while you’re online. They may not charge you directly via pay-per-view Web sites. But they will charge all the service providers you use. These providers will then pass those costs along to you in the form of price hikes or new charges to view content.

Stifling innovation: Net Neutrality ensures that innovators can start small and dream big about being the next EBay or Google without facing insurmountable hurdles. Unless we preserve Net Neutrality, startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web. On a tiered Internet controlled by the phone and cable companies, only their own content and services — or those offered by corporate partners that pony up enough “protection money” — will enjoy life in the fast lane.

TheBigOldDog on May 22, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Dear Uncle,
This isn’t a net neutrality question or an issue of asking Uncle Sam to ride in and “save” us. It’s a question of having informed consumers aware of the billing rates they pay, the service they receive, and voting with their wallets / feet while providing feedback to the various providers. It’s how the free market works. You should really look into trying it.

Jazz Shaw on May 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM

It certainly is a net neutrality question — look at the second part of your post. Netflix is going to bring down the Internet — that’s been the Comcast refrain for the past couple of years.

As for trying the free market, when Comcast no longer has monopoly cable supply rights to my house, and AT&T no longer has monopoly POTS service to my house, then we can talk about the free marketplace [I'd love to try FIOS, but Verizon won't do it -- I'm in an AT&T "service area"]. Until then, your idea of Comcast or Verizon or AT&T being part of a free marketplace is just so much dreck. In fact, it will be so much dreck afterward, because these companies will have already reaped the rewards of having had said monopoly for so long. We are talking about a utility here which was founded on best effort delivery of all data presented to it — a philosophy which, in spite of its opposition by both Comcast and Communist China, deserves to survive.

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 1:08 PM

Jerome Horwitz on May 22, 2011 at 12:14 PM

I use the service and I’m pretty happy with it. However, much of their content is not streaming. You need to snail mail DVDs back and forth or miss out on a lot. For example, I never watched “Breaking Bad,” but decided to see the series (good stuff, BTW). The 1st 2 seasons were only available on DVD and seasons 3 and 4 were not available at all yet. I wound up seeing the missing seasons on some free streaming sites for TV, but naturally you can’t do that with most stuff.

MJBrutus on May 22, 2011 at 1:09 PM

And no, net neutrality isn’t needed to keep the 1′s and 0′s flowing. Look at the mobile phone market, people are willing to pay for unlimited data and the companies have to compete for those customers, ISP’s ignore that at their peril, people will go to the providers that offer unlimited data. Government stepping in will only impede that competition and hurt consumers in the long run.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

“Unlimited” data is going the way of the Dodo Bird, be it from mobile or land-based ISPs. The number of consumers wiling to pay extra for “unlimited” data are too small to compete over.

Hollowpoint on May 22, 2011 at 1:09 PM

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 12:10 PM

I’m with you on Net Nuetrality. That doesn’t mean I support the FCC overstepping its authority to achieve it however.

TheBigOldDog on May 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

I agree with that. The only valid function that the government has in this case is to promote a free market. Of course, they’re far more likely to strangle the free market through crony capitalism. In fact, it’s hard to get a monopoly going without a little government help.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 1:09 PM

I don’t care who is eating up bandwidth during the evening, it hoses my latencies to the servers I connect to. And my ISP refuses to do anything to upgrade their network. It even messes up netflix, and an HD movie suddenly becomes low quality because there is more traffic than the bandwidth can handle.

sadatoni on May 22, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Know who’s “eating up bandwidth” during the evening? Look in the mirror.

It takes quite a bit of time and money for an ISP to upgrade their infrastructure. Most will do so in response to chronic congestion, but some are quicker about it than others.

It’s not something that they can realistically do in days, but more typically weeks or months.

Hollowpoint on May 22, 2011 at 1:13 PM

I’m with you on Net Nuetrality. That doesn’t mean I support the FCC overstepping its authority to achieve it however.

TheBigOldDog on May 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

It’s obvious that the FCC is the right place to regulate this, and that regulation is in order given that content-specific “taxes” are being levied by some ISPs. You are right — the FCC needs to be explicitly authorized by law to handle the Internet as a communications network (they already handle all other data traffic associated with these utilities), but, sadly, the guys I’d expect to be all for that are against it, and the guys I normally detest are all for it. The root reason is obvious — our guys don’t know when free enterprise ends and the government enforced monopolies begin, and when said monopolies should be treated differently from free enterprise.

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 1:16 PM

I say this as a former computer programmer who still has a hard drive partition with Ubuntu on it: Nobody cares about Linux: You’re joking, right? I don’t know anyone who uses a Linux OS who couldn’t also explain the difference between a standard binary search and a red-black algorithm. And even amongst that miniscule subset of the market, most of those folks will have Windows too.

Besides, can you imagine the nightmare of providing support for all the variations of Linux? I spent an easy eight hours getting Ubuntu to work with my WiFi card, and then another five getting my soundcard to work. Why on earth would they wan to open the Pandora’s Box of Linux support for a practically non-existent user base?

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Speaking as a current computer programmer running Linux on my home PC and laptop, I certainly care. Samsung cared enough about Linux to offer support for their printers. NVidia supports Linux for their video cards. Intel offers very good support for their embedded video. Dell and HP both offer Linux on their PCs.

The assertion that “no one cares about Linux” seems indefensible.

BTW, atheros-based wifi chipsets were bad about not supporting Linux, but that situation has changed already.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM

That’s not the issue. The issue is ISPs discriminating based on the source of traffic and not informing customers.

Yes, but that was with torrents where the ISP’s at least had the flimsy excuse of piracy to excuse their behavior and people caught on to it because it’s easy to tell when your bandwidth is being throttled. That situation was resolved without government stepping in so just imagine the outcry if ISP’s tried to do that with a service like Netflix, they would lose customers in droves. Streaming video is set to be the way people watch movies in the future, Netflix already offers a streaming only package and people will go to the providers that offer them the capability to watch. The idea that things would remain static if ISP’s colluded to throttle service just isn’t correct, people want their internet and they’ll go to whoever provides it, so someone will provide it.

clearbluesky on May 22, 2011 at 1:26 PM

I agree with that. The only valid function that the government has in this case is to promote a free market. Of course, they’re far more likely to strangle the free market through crony capitalism. In fact, it’s hard to get a monopoly going without a little government help.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 1:09 PM

Of course, “free market” is a concept up for grabs. Should an internet service provider — a utility — which attained that position by obtaining a monopoly from government — be allowed to prevent the delivery to or acceptance of packets originating from your home based on legally acceptable content? Some here with ideas in opposition to mine of what a free marketplace comprises will certainly say “yes” — the ISP owns the connection after it leaves your home and has every right to deny its competitors access to their network — and, obliquely, to your home. Of course, in my universe that kind of balkanization of the Internet will mean that certain content on the Internet will be forever unavailable to me — unless I move to a place where the network blockages are not in place. I’d rather have the FCC do the job, thank you — their definition of Net Neutrality is fine with me.

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 1:30 PM

EDIT: I’ll be sure to pore over the text more carefully next time I’m writing after pouring a martini that early in the day.

Blood alcohol level hardest hit.

Weebork on May 22, 2011 at 1:49 PM

That’s not the issue. The issue is ISPs discriminating based on the source of traffic and not informing customers.

The hype around net-neutrality is greatly exaggerated and deeply misunderstood by people who have strong emotional positions but don’t understand the technology.

First of all, packet prioritization does not even come into play until a path has reached saturation. For example, you have a 10 megabit path that is passing 10 megabits of traffic. At that point you are going to begin to drop packets or buffer them until the buffer fills and you begin to drop packets. The decision is on which traffic to pass and which traffic to drop *when the link is full to capacity*.

When the link is not full, prioritization doesn’t even come into play because every packet is able to be sent as it arrives. If you have 8 Meg of traffic on a 10 Meg path, the router or switch does not even care about the priority, it is able to pass each packet as it arrives.

The issue is what do you want your experience to be when your 14yo begins to download some huge video. Do you want your VOIP phone and your web browsing to still work?

But even aside from this, the ENTIRE issue is actually based on a misunderstanding by Comcast over network congestion. Comcast did some things in their network to cause peer to peer file sharing to “back off” its bandwidth use by randomly dropping a packet in those streams. This was because people were complaining of poor web browsing experience and Comcast mistakenly concluded that the problem was bit-torrent.

The REAL problem is that they have too much buffering in their network gear. In their striving to prevent dropping even a single packet during congestion, they have huge amounts of packet buffering in various network devices throughout the network. This actually defeats TCP congestion avoidance and causes flows to overcompensate to congestion.

The technical-minded might want to google the “bufferbloat” blogging by Jim Getty.

This whole issue is about to become moot as the REAL problem that started all of this crap has now been discovered.

crosspatch on May 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 12:10 PM

I know what you mean. A lot of conservatives here act like Comcast and the other major cable-TV-ISP’s are operating in a free market and that any attempt to regulate them is some kind of socialist intrusion. But in practice, these companies are de facto government-granted monopolies. They were once the sole providers of cable television, and this led to them being the major broadband providers as well.

This was all well and good before the internet came into direct competition with cable television, but the explosion in online video has created a fundamental conflict in the cable-ISP monopoly structure that induces anti-competitive behavior. Cable-ISP’s now have a direct incentive to discriminate specifically against video content so as to keep customers buying their cable TV services. This applies ten-times over to Comcast since they’re now in the business of buying up television networks.

Put another way, why do you have to buy a $60, 80-channel cable package from Comcast when you only actually watch one or two channels? Why not just subscribe to those channels online and stream them over the internet, for lets say $5/month, paid directly to the content provider? The market would be more inclined to move in this direction were it not for the anti-competitive connection between cable television providers and internet service providers. Disintermediation is the name of the game, and its what monopolies fear most. The cable-ISP’s are afraid of losing their monopoly over content delivery via cable television, and with it the leverage to compel consumers to buy content that they wouldn’t otherwise purchase. Comcast and its kind don’t just want to be ISP’s, they want to be media monopolies so that they can protect their cable cash cows.

The meaning of “net neutrality” has been warped and manipulated by political division over the years, it means different things to different people based on their partisan leanings at this point. I think that in its most basic form, it means that every kilobyte is created equal, and that ISP’s should not discriminate against the content of data in pricing it.

That being said, the ISP’s need a way to price bandwidth in order to keep up with demand — either metered use or tiered service. My major concern is that because the cable ISP’s are not operating in a free market, the price structure will not be a reflection of supply and demand; instead, the major cable ISP’s will manipulate the price structure to discourage video streaming in order to protect their cable television cash cows. With a metered system, they could create a progressive pricing scale that discriminates against video content in effect. The same could be done with thresholds in a tiered system. I wouldn’t like paying for the bandwidth, but I think a linearly-priced metered system would be the best way to prevent content discrimination in practice. But if we go with tiers, the government must keep a close eye on the tier-structures for the cable-ISP’s to make sure the thresholds aren’t discriminating against video content in practice.

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

How many people do you suppose want to watch netflix on a nintendo 3ds? 2 maybe 3 people, and only to say they did, once? Yet they are working on it. Same thing with android phone (also based on linux kernel). Linux is a much bigger market of people who would actually USE their software.

clement on May 22, 2011 at 12:53 PM

More than Netflix thinks will watch it on Linux, otherwise they would respond to the demand.

Speaking as a current computer programmer running Linux on my home PC and laptop, I certainly care. Samsung cared enough about Linux to offer support for their printers. NVidia supports Linux for their video cards. Intel offers very good support for their embedded video. Dell and HP both offer Linux on their PCs.

The assertion that “no one cares about Linux” seems indefensible.

BTW, atheros-based wifi chipsets were bad about not supporting Linux, but that situation has changed already.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM

1.) It is one thing for computer hardware manufacturers to provide Linux support, it is quite another for a software-developer/video-rental-service to provide Linux support. Their markets are completely different.

2. My “no one cares about Linux” argument is not indefensible. The proof is in the pudding. Like I said to clement above, if Netflix thought there was sufficient demand to justify the cost of porting the code, why wouldn’t they do it? Answer: Demand is not sufficient, and they do not anticipate large growth in the Linux market in the future.

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 2:09 PM

EDIT: I’ll be sure to pore over the text more carefully next time I’m writing after pouring a martini that early in the day.

At least you didn’t misspell the word “harass” in your own title like…someone I know.

Bee on May 22, 2011 at 2:22 PM

That being said, the ISP’s need a way to price bandwidth in order to keep up with demand — either metered use or tiered service. My major concern is that because the cable ISP’s are not operating in a free market, the price structure will not be a reflection of supply and demand; instead, the major cable ISP’s will manipulate the price structure to discourage video streaming in order to protect their cable television cash cows. With a metered system, they could create a progressive pricing scale that discriminates against video content in effect. The same could be done with thresholds in a tiered system. I wouldn’t like paying for the bandwidth, but I think a linearly-priced metered system would be the best way to prevent content discrimination in practice. But if we go with tiers, the government must keep a close eye on the tier-structures for the cable-ISP’s to make sure the thresholds aren’t discriminating against video content in practice.

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Agreed. I’m not against the ISPs charging for bandwidth utilized, or even against per-packet charges — but I am against them charging based on the originator or consumer or type of the content. I contract with my ISP to allow me access to any location on the Internet, and to upload or download whatever I want from those locations. When the ISP starts deliberately substituting, dropping, or inserting packets to prevent my activity is when the fighting begins.

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 2:33 PM

If NetF is stangling the NET then the NET will find a way to give NetF it’s due. Click click click is the gold standard of the 21st century.

Limerick on May 22, 2011 at 2:35 PM

The technical-minded might want to google the “bufferbloat” blogging by Jim Getty.

This whole issue is about to become moot as the REAL problem that started all of this crap has now been discovered.

crosspatch on May 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

“bufferbloat” induces latency — but only on heavily loaded networks. If the latency extends beyond TTL values, the packets are dropped. Those buffers are there for a reason — if they weren’t, many more TCP packets would be dropped. I could care less about UDP (which may annoy a bunch of gamers whose protocols use UDP), because there are no reliability requirements levied upon the UDP protocol.

Suffice to say that the issue is more data entering the network over a sustained period of time than the network is designed to handle. If the problem is an impulse issue, the “excessive buffers” solution is exactly what is needed to handle same. It’s only when the problem becomes systemic that the “excessive buffers” solution fails — but then, any other solution short of not transmitting would have failed as well.

The implications of “bufferbloat” are that the network really is incapable of handling the capacity assigned to it, and something has to give. If we were to reduce the sizes of the buffers at every level of the network, congestion avoidance would then become the issue, because the window times would increase substantially to the point where your realtime streaming app fails to realtime stream due to your own network drivers’ local idea of how the network has recently behaved.

In other words, the reservoir of non-received packets is either on premises, off premises, large, or small, and in an oversaturated network, none of this matters.

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Of course, “free market” is a concept up for grabs. Should an internet service provider — a utility — which attained that position by obtaining a monopoly from government — be allowed to prevent the delivery to or acceptance of packets originating from your home based on legally acceptable content? Some here with ideas in opposition to mine of what a free marketplace comprises will certainly say “yes” — the ISP owns the connection after it leaves your home and has every right to deny its competitors access to their network — and, obliquely, to your home. Of course, in my universe that kind of balkanization of the Internet will mean that certain content on the Internet will be forever unavailable to me — unless I move to a place where the network blockages are not in place. I’d rather have the FCC do the job, thank you — their definition of Net Neutrality is fine with me.

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 1:30 PM

That is the problem. The market is not truly free, and if the government effectively grants a partial monopoly to a private business, they then have a certain amount of right to regulate that business.

If the market could be truly free, we could dispense with the regulation. As it is, any attempt by an ISP with a government-granted monopoly or partial monopoly to restrict traffic based on favoring their own content should be open to challenge on restraint-of-trade.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 3:17 PM

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 1:30 PM

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 3:17 PM

So, I think the three of us are in agreement on this thing then?

TGTN, just wondering, do you prefer the metered or tiered?

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Put another way, why do you have to buy a $60, 80-channel cable package from Comcast when you only actually watch one or two channels? Why not just subscribe to those channels online and stream them over the internet, for lets say $5/month, paid directly to the content provider?
Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

I have ALWAYS wanted this.
It is WHY I do not have a large cable package.
I have basic cable from my provider for a few network channels & the locals.
I would love to be able to pick & choose, which is why I’ve considered Hulu & Netflix.
My daughter got both of them & it’s cheaper than her cable & she is much happier.

Badger40 on May 22, 2011 at 3:59 PM

TGTN, just wondering, do you prefer the metered or tiered?

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 3:28 PM

I’m in a tiered plan now. No per-byte charges, but a bandwidth limitation of 6Mbps down, 1Mbps up — and (beside the point) 8 static IP addresses. Perfect for my SOHO use.

I use about 1.02gB/mo up and 1.05gB/mo down, so, from what I’ve seen, I don’t think metered charges would affect me much.

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 4:09 PM

1.) It is one thing for computer hardware manufacturers to provide Linux support, it is quite another for a software-developer/video-rental-service to provide Linux support. Their markets are completely different.

2. My “no one cares about Linux” argument is not indefensible. The proof is in the pudding. Like I said to clement above, if Netflix thought there was sufficient demand to justify the cost of porting the code, why wouldn’t they do it? Answer: Demand is not sufficient, and they do not anticipate large growth in the Linux market in the future.

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 2:09 PM

And yet Hulu offers a Linux client. By the same “proof is in the pudding” argument, it’s proven that people do care about Linux.

The fact that Netflix doesn’t offer a Linux client doesn’t really prove anything about Linux. It more likely has something to do with DRM, or that Netflix has a proprietary system built on Windows that could not be easily ported to Linux.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 4:19 PM

So, I think the three of us are in agreement on this thing then?

TGTN, just wondering, do you prefer the metered or tiered?

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Yes.

The current flat rate plan is working fine for me. But then, I’m not currently using my internet connection for business, except for a LOT of time connected to work by VPN.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Comcast’s near-monopoly has resulted in pretty much what you’d expect from a near monopoly. Prices that rise every six or eight months and a $4.99 charge BEFORE tax for any streamed video I order.

Since joining Netflix, I’ve been receiving at least 8 first run DVDs through the mail each month and have watched countless hours of streaming entertainment on my Wii, iphone, and PC. All this for $10.69 per month POST tax.

As a Luddite, I can’t really offer much in regards to bandwith useage, ETC., but one can certainly see why Comcast might be taking the position they have. Netflix has clearly pooped in the Comcast punchbowl and I’m enjoying the result for as long as I can…

CaptFlood on May 22, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Comcast screws you to the wall in Santa Fe, NM. $58 plus tax for internet is a screw job. If the day ever comes when I can get fast internet service (dsl only goes 1.5 mg in my area) other than Comcast, I’ll drop Comcast like a hot potato. The phone company (Qwest) thought they had a license to steal but they’re history at both homes I own. I use Ooma at my main home and cheap Magic Jack at my vacation place.

BillCarson on May 22, 2011 at 4:43 PM

The fact that Netflix doesn’t offer a Linux client doesn’t really prove anything about Linux. It more likely has something to do with DRM, or that Netflix has a proprietary system built on Windows that could not be easily ported to Linux.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Yup. PlayReady DRM, so all of the above.

Here’s the interview.

The workaround (requires a spare XP/Win7 license).

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 6:15 PM

So, Netflix has beaten SPAM as the largest consumer of internet resources?

southsideironworks on May 22, 2011 at 6:52 PM

To all you Netflix fans:

Reed Hastings. Look him up.

Also, as far as the their streaming content goes…um, after a few weeks, how are you finding interesting things to watch?

jjraines on May 22, 2011 at 6:53 PM

I’m interested in Netflix, but when I go to their website, it seems like there’s not a vast catalog to choose from.

Is it like the old Columbia House CD’s thingy, where the initial ad where you pick and choose there’s a limited amount of choice, but once you’re in you get this large catalog of tons of choices ??

Thanks in advance for any help ….. I’d like to join since Blockbuster moved out on me, but the choices on their website seem limited.
Jerome Horwitz on May 22, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Netflix has thousands of movies and tv shows. When you go to the site it will display the most popular ones at the time. You can search for specific titles and once you join you can do a quick quiz on your genre preferences and they’ll make recommendations. Also if you rate movies you’ve already seen they’ll make recommendations based on that. But you can choose whatever you want from all their selections. Some you can stream instantly, and others you have to get through the mail. I stream through my Vizio TV, my kids use their Wii to stream, and my brother uses his laptop hooked uo to his tv.I have the $9.99 membership and get one movie/show at a time through the mail with unlimited instant streaming on others and have a pretty quick turn-around time. I mail it in the morning and get the next one on my list two days later. But I mostly stream movies and shows. I’m happy with it and haven’t had cable in two years. I supplement with renting over-night movies from Red Box kiosks for $1.00.

Deanna on May 22, 2011 at 6:58 PM

To all you Netflix fans:

Reed Hastings. Look him up.

Also, as far as the their streaming content goes…um, after a few weeks, how are you finding interesting things to watch?

jjraines on May 22, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Yeah most Techies are Liberals…goes with the silicon valley mentality.
I find tons of stuff to watch but I look for old movies and tv shows I might have missed or others that look interesting. The only thing I don’t watch there is news and I get that on the internet. I’m not into sports so I really don’t care about it much and I can usually live stream from another site if I want.

Deanna on May 22, 2011 at 7:06 PM

And yet Hulu offers a Linux client. By the same “proof is in the pudding” argument, it’s proven that people do care about Linux.

The fact that Netflix doesn’t offer a Linux client doesn’t really prove anything about Linux. It more likely has something to do with DRM, or that Netflix has a proprietary system built on Windows that could not be easily ported to Linux.

There Goes The Neighborhood on May 22, 2011 at 4:19 PM

1. Right, but Netflix is the big cheese, not Hulu Plus. Netflix owns the proprietary streaming video market right now, as the peak-usage numbers mentioned in this article suggest. Netflix is less concerned with appealing to niche markets because it already owns the primary demos.

2. I think you’re right that its a combination of DRM and the costs of porting the code that are standing in the way of a Linux version.

As far as DRM, it’s certainly reasonable for a company like Netflix to fear opening its product up to the highly-manipulable Linux OS and the coterie of computer-savvy, dedicated DRM-evaders who come with it. Seriously, look at what happened with Sony’s PSN. Who would want to engage the Linux market after that?

Regarding the fact that adapting the code/providing support/etc. to Linux would be too expensive, aren’t you really just saying that the costs to Netflix of re-working the code for Linux would exceed the projected gains in membership (e.g. the market is too small to justify the work necessary to port the code at this point)? This, far more than any DRM concerns, is the main reason they haven’t released a Linux version.

Lawdawg86 on May 22, 2011 at 7:53 PM

All this talk about Netflix. Everyone knows its p0rn that slows down the internet.

BierManVA on May 22, 2011 at 8:52 PM

Netflix Managment Czar in 3… 2… 1….

Netflix Tax in 3… 2… 1…

I dig my Netflix. Dropped the DVD option the second they offered it. That email got answered in record time.

I can’t believe it only costs $7.99 a month. Which, means it probably won’t for much longer.

Moesart on May 22, 2011 at 9:21 PM

Yup. PlayReady DRM, so all of the above.

Here’s the interview.

The workaround (requires a spare XP/Win7 license).

unclesmrgol on May 22, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Virtualization is not a solution. Not on my CULV machine. Certainly not on any atom based machine. Their claim of ‘we only support playready’ falls short when their apple client surely doesn’t use it, nor their wii, nor boxee, nor roku, nor 3ds, ps3, etc (some of these are linux based machines as it is).

They clearly don’t support linux not because they cant but because some lawyer/lawyers (or executives) somewhere think linux users are a bunch of hackers, thieves, or otherwise cheap/shady group of people.

I’ll instead just keep my amazon prime account (which also support linux) and finance them to grow to a competitor to netflix. Plus I’ll get all the other perks they give.

clement on May 22, 2011 at 9:58 PM

They clearly don’t support linux not because they cant but because some lawyer/lawyers (or executives) somewhere think linux users are a bunch of hackers, thieves, or otherwise cheap/shady group of people.

clement on May 22, 2011 at 9:58 PM

There’s also another reason: Linux users, while relatively few in number, are a VERY dedicated lot. They’re the most likely group outside of professional hackers to crack any overburdening DRM or bloatware that the company would like to throw in.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 22, 2011 at 10:14 PM

This is probably a story made up by Obamacrats in order to justify a takeover of the Internet so they can force 24/7 streaming of Obama speeches…

/sarc>

landlines on May 23, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I went for the free NetFlix account, and cancelled before the 30 day trial ended. If you’re into 30 year old B movies, it’s fine, but if you want to watch more modern, popular movies or TV shows, you’ll need to order the discs. The online version carries nothing but garbage that I didn’t even want to watch when they were new releases.

stacman on May 23, 2011 at 1:22 PM