Why Your Netflix Traffic is Slow?

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Tommy McGuire
Labels: protocols

Regarding Why Your Netflix Traffic is Slow, and Why the Open Internet Order Won’t (Necessarily) Make It Faster by Nick Feamster, I'm having significant difficulties with this paragraph:

Comcast claims that Netflix was sending traffic at such high volumes as to intentionally congest the links between different transit ISPs and Comcast, essentially taking a page from Norton’s “peering playbook” and forcing Comcast and its peers (i.e., the transit providers, Cogent, Level 3, Tata, and others) to upgrade capacity one-by-one, before sending traffic down a different path, congesting that, and forcing an upgrade. Their position was that Netflix was sending more traffic through these transit providers than the transit providers could handle, and thus that Netflix or their transit providers should pay to connect to Comcast directly. Comcast also implies that certain transit providers such as Cogent are likely the source of congested paths, a claim that has been explored but not yet conclusively proved one way or the other, owing to the difficulty of locating these points of congestion (more on that in a future post).

Now, peering negotiations are an ugly, unpleasant activity that I'm quite happy never to have been a part of. But I don't find this particular claim to be "reasonable and plausible", in the author's words. Where is the congestion?

Then, there's this: "The best technical solution (and what ultimately happened) is that Netflix and Comcast should interconnect directly." The best technical solution? The best technical solution? (Here's a hint: a fully-connected network is not a good technical solution.)

But the ultimate problem here is: "This is where market leverage comes into play: Because most consumers do not have choice in broadband Internet providers, Comcast arguably (and, empirically speaking, as well) has more market leverage: They can afford to ask Netflix to pay for that direct link—a common Internet business relationship called paid peering—because they have more market power."

Comcast has more market power because it is a monopoly and the problem with monopolies is precisely that they use their market power to squeeze money out of counter-parties.

As an aside, I find Feamster's comment reply, "What is false in Oliver’s presentation (and many of the claims in the popular press) is his claim about what causes that slowdown. The cause of the slowdown is congestion, not intentional throttling," to be simply disingenuous. What exactly is the difference between intentional throttling and intentionally introducing congestion by not upgrading inadequate peering relationships?

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