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