Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Case Against ISP Tolls

As the person at Netflix responsible for content delivery, I spend a lot of time thinking about Netflix’s Open Connect CDN and its interconnection with ISPs. We are proud of the performance we’ve achieved through our hundreds of Open Connect partners around the globe.

In fact, Netflix has a mutually beneficial relationship with nearly every ISP in every market where we provide service. But this is less the case for the largest ISP in the U.S., Comcast, which is trying to become even larger by acquiring Time Warner Cable.

Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for direct interconnection to reverse an unacceptable decline in our members’ video experience on the Comcast network. These members were experiencing poor streaming quality because Comcast allowed its links to Internet transit providers like Level3, XO, Cogent and Tata to clog up, slowing delivery of movies and TV shows to Netflix users.

For a content company such as Netflix, paying an ISP like Comcast for interconnection is not the same as paying for Internet transit. Transit networks like Level3, XO, Cogent and Tata perform two important services: (1) they carry traffic over long distances and (2) they provide access to every network on the global Internet. When Netflix connects directly to the Comcast network, Comcast is not providing either of the services typically provided by transit networks.


Comcast does not carry Netflix traffic over long distances. Netflix is itself shouldering the costs and performing the transport function for which it used to pay transit providers. Netflix connects to Comcast in locations all over the U.S., and has offered to connect in as many locations as Comcast desires. So Netflix is moving Netflix content long distances, not Comcast.

Nor does Comcast connect Netflix to other networks. In fact, Netflix can’t reach other networks via Comcast’s network.

For all these reasons, Netflix directly interconnects with many ISPs here in the U.S. and internationally without any exchange of fees.

In sum, Comcast is not charging Netflix for transit service. It is charging Netflix for access to its subscribers. Comcast also charges its subscribers for access to Internet content providers like Netflix. In this way, Comcast is double dipping by getting both its subscribers and Internet content providers to pay for access to each other.

It is true that there is competition among the transit providers and CDNs that transport and localize data across networks. But even the most competitive transit market cannot ensure sufficient access to the Comcast network. That’s because, to reach consumers, CDNs and transit providers must ultimately hand the traffic over to a terminating ISP like Comcast, which faces no competition. Put simply, there is one and only one way to reach Comcast’s subscribers at the last mile: Comcast.

There cannot be an “intensely competitive” market when Comcast alone sets the terms and conditions for access to Comcast subscribers. Comcast can simply refuse to provide capacity to any network at any time, constraining the ability for Comcast users to use the services they want. Comcast’s ability to constrain access to Netflix can be clearly seen in the following chart, which shows how Netflix performance deteriorated on the Comcast network and then immediately recovered after Netflix started paying Comcast in February.


We do a great deal of work at Netflix to provide our users with great video quality whenever they chose to use our service. Comcast already controls access and sets the terms of access to a substantial portion of people who connect to the Internet in the United States. We're very concerned that a combined Comcast-TWC will place toll taking above consumer interests and will use their combined market power to the detriment of a vibrant and efficient Internet. That’s why Netflix opposes the merger.

Ken

Ken Florance is vice president of content delivery at Netflix

Monday, April 14, 2014

Netflix ISP Speed Index for March

We have just added March data to the Netflix ISP Speed Index, our monthly update on which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide the best Netflix streaming experience during primetime.

This month’s rankings are a great illustration of how performance can improve when ISPs work to connect directly to Netflix. In the US, the average speed on the Comcast network for Netflix streams is up 65 percent from 1.51Mbps in January to 2.5Mbps in March.

We’re also seeing early improvements on Telenor-owned ISPs in Norway, Sweden and Denmark after Telenor agreed to directly connect its network to Netflix.

We are dedicated to delivering a great streaming experience and invest in continually improving that experience. Part of that investment is working with ISPs to make Netflix delivery easy and to avoid congestion. We see consistently better speeds for customers served by ISPs that directly connect their network to Netflix using our Open Connect content delivery network.


A few additional data points from the February update of the Netflix ISP Speed Index:
  • We have expanded the ISP Speed Index with six more countries in Latin America: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay. Consumers there now also have a simple way to see which ISPs provide the best Netflix streaming experience. The data also allows easy country-to-country comparisons: Uruguay tops the region while Costa Rica is last of the 11 ranked nations. 
  • In Sweden, Com Hem has taken the top slot, unseating Own It for the first time.
The Netflix ISP Speed Index is based on data from the more than 44 million Netflix members worldwide who view over 1 billion hours of TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix each month. The listed speeds reflect the average performance of all Netflix streams on each ISP's network and are an indicator of the performance typically experienced across all users on an ISP network. A faster network generally means a better picture quality, quicker start times and fewer interruptions.

Note: the average performance is below the peak performance due to many factors including the variety of encodes Netflix uses to deliver the TV shows and movies as well as the variety of devices members use and home network conditions. These factors cancel out when comparing across ISPs.

Joris

Joris Evers is part of the corporate communications team at Netflix

UPDATE: Blog was corrected at 11:45AM to reflect accurate average Comcast speed in January. It was 1.51Mpbs. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

This Month’s Picks for Families: Totally Tubular #TBT

As a working mom of two little kids I couldn't imagine living without Netflix. Honestly. It was true even before I started working here. To help show other families out there how Netflix fits into your life, we've created, “This Month’s Picks for Families.’ Every month we’ll make recommendations and give you some ideas that could fit into your family’s routine that month. And we’ll also include some craft or recipe ideas, but don’t worry we’ll keep them realistic and practical.

I’ve been working at Netflix for a little more than a year and one of the stories I hear over and over is how parents love to introduce their children to characters they grew up with.  I know one dad who is watching all the superhero series from the 70s and 80s with his son.  He told me it’s like reliving his childhood and he gets to see the characters through his son’s eyes, which can be a pretty magical thing. It’s become their own special ritual and an easy way to have some bonding time. 

And I’ve heard from a mom who started watching Bones because her daughter loved the show so much.  It gave them something to do together at a time when moms and teens don’t always connect.  That 1 hour on the couch has lead to meaningful conversations about what’s going on in her daughter’s life, including what she wants to study in school…turns out she wants to be like Angela and work in a lab.

Those stories give me goosies (yep, I just outed myself, I still watch American Idol). So in the spirit of the ever-popular #TBT trend, we’ve put together a list of TV shows and movies from when we were kids to share with your brood.

For your big kids:








I must admit, when I saw this craft I let out a little yelp!  My daughter and I will be making some Shrinky Dinks this week. 



Who can forget Billy Cosby and his J-E-L-L-O commercials? Relieve the 80s with homemade pudding pops.

Enjoy sharing a piece of your childhood with your kids.

-Jenny

Jenny McCabe is director of the Consumer PR team at Netflix (and a mom of two) 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality

The Internet is improving lives everywhere – democratizing access to ideas, services and goods. To ensure the Internet remains humanity's most important platform for progress, net neutrality must be defended and strengthened.

The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make. The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient.

This weak net neutrality isn't enough to protect an open, competitive Internet; a stronger form of net neutrality is required. Strong net neutrality additionally prevents ISPs from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers. Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge.



Some major ISPs, like Cablevision, already practice strong net neutrality and for their broadband subscribers, the quality of Netflix and other streaming services is outstanding. But on other big ISPs, due to a lack of sufficient interconnectivity, Netflix performance has been constrained, subjecting consumers who pay a lot of money for high-speed Internet to high buffering rates, long wait times and poor video quality. A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled this degradation using our public data.

Once Netflix agrees to pay the ISP interconnection fees, however, sufficient capacity is made available and high quality service for consumers is restored. If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future. Roughly the same arbitrary tax is demanded from the intermediaries such as Cogent and Level 3, who supply millions of websites with connectivity, leading to a poor consumer experience.

Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service. The big ISPs can make these demands -- driving up costs and prices for everyone else -- because of their market position. For any given U.S. household, there is often only one or two choices for getting high-speed Internet* access and that’s unlikely to change. Furthermore, Internet access is often bundled with other services making it challenging to switch ISPs. It is this lack of consumer choice that leads to the need for strong net neutrality.

Netflix believes strong net neutrality is critical, but in the near term we will in cases pay the toll to the powerful ISPs to protect our consumer experience. When we do so, we don’t pay for priority access against competitors, just for interconnection. A few weeks ago, we agreed to pay Comcast and our members are now getting a good experience again. Comcast has been an industry leader in supporting weak net neutrality, and we hope they’ll support strong net neutrality as well.

ISPs sometimes point to data showing that Netflix members account for about 30% of peak residential Internet traffic, so the ISPs want us to share in their costs. But they don't also offer for Netflix or similar services to share in the ISPs revenue, so cost-sharing makes no sense. When an ISP sells a consumer a 10 or 50 megabits-per-second Internet package, the consumer should get that rate, no matter where the data is coming from.

Some ISPs say that Netflix is unilaterally "dumping as much volume" (Verizon CFO) as it wants onto their networks. Netflix isn't "dumping" data; it's satisfying requests made by ISP customers who pay a lot of money for high speed Internet. Netflix doesn't send data unless members request a movie or TV show.

Interestingly, there is one special case where no-fee interconnection is embraced by the big ISPs -- when they are connecting among themselves. They argue this is because roughly the same amount of data comes and goes between their networks. But when we ask them if we too would qualify for no-fee interconnect if we changed our service to upload as much data as we download** -- thus filling their upstream networks and nearly doubling our total traffic -- there is an uncomfortable silence. That's because the ISP argument isn't sensible. Big ISPs aren't paying money to services like online backup that generate more upstream than downstream traffic. Data direction, in other words, has nothing to do with costs.

ISPs around the world are investing in high-speed Internet and most already practice strong net neutrality. With strong net neutrality, new services requiring high-speed Internet can emerge and become popular, spurring even more demand for the lucrative high-speed packages ISPs offer. With strong net neutrality, everyone avoids the kind of brinkmanship over blackouts that plague the cable industry and harms consumers. As the Wall Street Journal chart shows, we're already getting to the brownout stage. Consumers deserve better.

Some big ISPs are extracting a toll because they can -- they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay. Though they have the scale and power to do this, they should realize it is in their long term interest to back strong net neutrality. While in the short term Netflix will in cases reluctantly pay large ISPs to ensure a high quality member experience, we will continue to fight for the Internet the world needs and deserves.

Reed

*Defined as 10 Mbits/sec -- sufficient for a good Skype video, an MLB.tv live game or high quality Netflix streaming. DSL and mobile do not generally offer these speeds.
**in other words, moving to peer-to-peer content delivery

Monday, March 10, 2014

Netflix ISP Speed Index Expanded

We have just added February data to the Netflix ISP Speed Index, our monthly update on which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide the best Netflix streaming experience during primetime. This month we have expanded our list of ISPs in the United States to the top 60, providing more details on the performance of US ISPs.

Since we started publishing the ISP Speed Index in December 2012 we have tracked the largest broadband providers in the US plus Google Fiber, the guiding North Star for broadband performance in the country. With the expansion, Google Fiber continues to be at the top of the expanded list of ISPs, but Cablevision – Optimum leads the major ISPs.

We expanded the list to provide insight into the performance of many of the smaller providers in the US and to give credit where it is due. For example, Midcontinent, a regional cable provider in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, takes second place in the expanded rankings.

A few additional data points from the February update of the Netflix ISP Speed Index:

  • In the US there were no big shifts in the major ISP rankings in February. We do expect to see Comcast’s performance improve in the rankings next month when we release March data as a result of the recent agreement between Netflix and Comcast
  • In Mexico we now break out Axtel – Extremo, a fiber service, and Axtel Acceso Universal, a WiMAX service. With this break out, Axtel - Extremo lands firmly at the top of broadband providers in Mexico. Elsewhere in Latin America there were no big changes.
  • In the Netherlands UPC left the bottom ranked slot and climbed three spaces, passing Tele2, Online and XS4ALL. In the UK Virgin Media saw its top slot taken over by BT while Com Hem in Sweden and Get in Norway each climbed two spots to land in second place in their respective countries. Elsewhere in Europe there were no major ranking shifts.
The Netflix ISP Speed Index is based on data from the more than 44 million Netflix members worldwide who view over 1 billion hours of TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix each month. The listed speeds reflect the average performance of all Netflix streams on each ISP's network and are an indicator of the performance typically experienced across all users on an ISP network. A faster network generally means a better picture quality, quicker start times and fewer interruptions.

Note: the average performance is below the peak performance due to many factors including the variety of encodes Netflix uses to deliver the TV shows and movies as well as the variety of devices members use and home network conditions. These factors cancel out when comparing across ISPs.

Below is our current ranking of regional ISPs.

Joris

Joris Evers is director of communications at Netflix



Monday, March 3, 2014

This Month’s Pick for Families: Science Fair Greats

As a working mom of two little kids I couldn't imagine living without Netflix. Honestly. It was true even before I started working here. To help show other families out there how Netflix fits into your life, we've created, “This Month’s Picks for Families.’ Every month we’ll make recommendations and give you some ideas that could fit into your family’s routine that month. And we’ll also include some craft or recipe ideas, but don’t worry we’ll keep them realistic and practical.

Do you know the optimal time for cooking microwave popcorn? 2 minutes and 15 seconds. I know this because my little sister examined this for her science fair project when I was in high school. She and my mom popped bags of popcorn for different amounts of time and then in a very scientific way counted how many kernels were left unpopped vs. how many burned pieces there were to get to an optimal time. And while I ended up learning a valuable and practical piece of info, I also remember being IRATE that her science project was so easy and that she even won some ribbons for it.  My projects always tried to be over the top, as if I was dressed in a lab coat, ready to save the world.  In reality, it often ended in tears - from my mom.


So when I saw this funny poster on Facebook a few weeks ago, it made me think….maybe Netflix can bring some fun to this family affair. We’ve put together a list of TV shows to inspire your kids when it comes to the most important task, picking an idea for their science project.
   
For your big kids:


2. How Do They Do It
3. Is It Possible?
4. Build It Bigger
5. How the Universe Works
6. Extreme Engineering
7. Mythbusters

And your little kids:




If you’re looking to jumpstart your kids’ scientific creativity, try this quick and easy light bulb experiment. Learn how to build your own here.


You can also further your kids’ science knowledge while indulging your sweet tooth with this sea foam candy recipe. As you add the secret ingredient (baking soda!) to boiled sugar, the mixture will bubble and quadruple in volume. Click here to learn how to build your own.

Or you can just feel free to steal that popcorn idea…

-Jenny

Monday, February 10, 2014

Brazil, Chile Lead In Broadband in Latin America

We have just added January data to the “Netflix ISP Speed Index,” our monthly update on which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide the best Netflix streaming experience during primetime. With this update we have also added Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia to our rankings.

Netflix has been available throughout Latin America since September 2011. Broadband quality in the region has been improving since we launched and trends are headed in the right direction, except in Argentina where we see average speeds declining.

Brazil and Chile lead in providing the best experience in Latin America, followed by Colombia. These three countries provide average speeds that are higher than in the United States, which over the past months is seeing a downward trend in average speeds.

A few additional data points from the January update of the Netflix ISP Speed Index:

  • In Latin America, GVT in Brazil and GTD in Chile are consistently the fastest broadband providers. Both are examples of innovative ISPs that invest in new network technology and strive to optimize the experience for their customers.
  • In the US, Verizon (FiOS and DSL), AT&T U-verse and Mediacom slipped in the rankings while Time Warner Cable, Bright House, Windstream, Centurylink and Clearwire saw gains.
  • In Europe there were no major ranking shifts, but in Denmark, Norway and Sweden speeds on already low-ranked Telenor operated ISPs dropped further in January.

The Netflix ISP Speed Index is based on data from the more than 44 million Netflix members worldwide who view over 1 billion hours of TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix each month. The listed speeds reflect the average performance of all Netflix streams on each ISP's network and are an indicator of the performance typically experienced across all users on an ISP network. A faster network generally means a better picture quality, quicker start times and fewer interruptions.

Note: the average performance is below the peak performance due to many factors including the variety of encodes Netflix uses to deliver the TV shows and movies as well as the variety of devices members use and home network conditions. These factors cancel out when comparing across ISPs.

Below is our current ranking of regional ISPs.

Joris

Joris Evers is director of corporate communications at Netflix