13 Comments

Summary:

No, your ISP isn’t intentionally slowing down your YouTube or Netflix video streams. But it may also not exactly be helping to get them sped up.

It’s official: Time Warner Cable doesn’t slow down your YouTube videos. The cable provider published a blog post late last week (hat tip to DSLReports), telling its customers that stuttering YouTube videos are “normal for broadband users at any internet service provider, at least some of the time.” The post went on to explain that the occasional buffering is just a result of “the way the internet works.”

Time Warner Cable felt compelled to publish the post after a number of customers had mused in recent months that the ISP was behind the sub-par performance of their YouTube videos. The supposedly damning evidence? Users had discovered that blocking a few IP numbers vastly improved their experience.

Time Warner Cable’s blog post doesn’t go into the IP number blocking, but explains the core of the problem this way:

“The internet is not as simple as one wire connecting a website’s servers to a customer’s home. Traffic originates in countless places, heading toward billions of end-user destinations. Each network that carries web traffic is itself a collection of a number of complicated technological and business relationships. As traffic flows from one area of the internet to another, it passes through this network of technologies, agreements and protocols and culminates in each particular user experience.”

In other words: It’s all about peering, and where in the network content is cached — which, as Time Warner Cable suggests, is as much about business as it is about technology. Case in point: Netflix has been trying to get ISPs to join its own Open Connect content delivery network and install its OpenConnect caching servers on ISPs’ networks.

The video service is arguing that this would greatly improve customers’ streaming experience while keeping down costs for ISPs, and Netflix is even willing to install and maintain these machines for free. However, getting U.S. ISPs to join has proven difficult. Not only are companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast operating their own TV services, which makes them Netflix competitors, but they also want Netflix, Google and others to pay for distributing so much traffic on their networks.

Netflix has started to take this peering fight to the court of public opinion. The company is publishing a monthly ISP speed index, and launched a new Super HD video quality level that is only available to customers of ISPs that have joined Open Connect. Time Warner Cable has responded to this by alleging that Netflix is discriminating against its customers – a charge that Netflix unsurprisingly denies.

Google has thus far kept quiet in this peering fight. But the fact that its users resort to blocking IP numbers to get better quality levels on certain ISPs, as well as Time Warner Cable’s new denial, makes it clear that even for YouTube users, the peering wars are far from over.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user Swetlana Wall

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  1. You may not know this, but one possible cause for your slow down Internet, is because cable tv providers wants to charge more $$$ to increase high speed access for video streaming content. Do a high speed online test. If you are getting 10MBPS download speed or less, that means your You Tube experience is not good. So, unless you want to pay more for faster high speed connection, you will not be able to enjoy video streaming.

  2. John Nemesh Monday, June 17, 2013

    No, the real reason is that Time Warner sees ALL internet video as a threat. So ANYTHING they can do to make your internet viewing less desirable is what they will do. Throttling connections to make your YouTube videos stutter? Oh, that’s not a violation of Network Neutrality, it’s just “network management” and “peering” issues!

    This is all anticompetitive bullshit, and they know it. Problem is, it’s hard to prove that they are doing anything illegal.

  3. No the real reason is what was just written becasue its not just TWC, its Comcast, Dsl, FiOS, etc… If you can’t understand what was written, wait until you CAN before you pop off.

    As to peering fights, this is old news for netflix who took level 3, and then level 3 and comcast had a pissing match becasue Level 3 felt comcast should double their bandwidth for FREE which anyone will tell you does not happen int the business world, you pay for it.

    http://corporate.comcast.com/comcast-voices/comcast-comments-on-level-3

    This is just the next round, if you don’t understand how the business side of the internet works, you should probably shut your mouth before you find both sets of toes tickling your tongue.

  4. YouTube doesn’t stutter with Cox HSI, even at 10Mbps, even though they are also a cable company and have their own PPV.

  5. This is just like the beginning of the internet back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The baby bells in reaction to the low-cost “metered” competitive WAN threat to 2 of their principal monopoly revenue streams petitioned state PUCs to expand local calling areas (LATAs) in return for flat-rate pricing. While this preserved their local voice monopoly, it opened the door for data bypass, as ISPs came in, leased DIDs and NXXs and offered always-on connection to their services. The FCC in the early 1990s preserved this form of equal access.

    Of course the Baby Bells complained, just like TW and Verizon that the ISPs were clogging up the networks. If anything it contributed to even greater profits for the Baby Bells as 2nd lines exploded and the cost of provisioning those lines was low. Once a greedy monopoly, always a greedy (and restrictive) monopoly.

    When will the policy makers wake up to this repeating cycle which has gone on for 100 years?

  6. My 3mbps DSL Bellsouth / AT&T didn’t sutter like my 20MBPS TWC. I just had a bandwidth test top out at 38 MBPS down and 3 MBPS up…. and youtube sutters.

    I have a non-TV ISP for work and youtube works just fine.

    If TWC doesn’t get their act together I’m going to have to dump them

  7. why not do a class action and sue them? It’s clear as day and anyone says its can’t be proven should leave the basement of their mothers house and see daylight. They have no excuse for 10mbps 5 years ago streaming perfectly for all video and today stuttering every few seconds. Its time to collect people.

  8. Time Warner does throttle, but you can get around it. using a VPN, YouTube (or any video streaming for that matter) does not stutter at all even streaming 1080p content. I turn it off and it stutters/buffers at 480p-720p content.

  9. No offense but I have 5 Mbps speed here in Puerto Rico by Liberty Cablevision and 99.5 % of YouTube videos run smoothly (even on 1080p) on several different PCs, smartphones and tablets too.

  10. My 30MBPs TWC stutters way more than my 3 meg backup hotspot

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