A federal judge's ruling in January that allows Internet service providers to set limits on bandwidth is still an issue, but a recent drop in Netflix's connection speeds may not be intentional. A monthly report by Netflix that shows the average connection speeds from different service providers shows that speeds for Comcast and Verizon FiOS slowed from December to January.
Netflix has yet to show major concern regarding the Net neutrality ruling last month, and it said it does not believe the slowing connection speeds are being caused by ISPs setting limits. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells both said connection throttling was unlikely to occur because of the backlash that Internet providers would have to face. Netflix is a major bandwidth hog, responsible for as much as a third of all downstream Internet traffic during peak viewing times.
The monthly Netflix USA ISP graph for January shows that at the same time major ISPs were experiencing a decrease in average connection speeds, Google Fiber was continuing to soar. Only a handful of mainstream ISPs, including Cox and Cablevision, saw an increase in speed last month. Other providers, including Charter, Comcast and Verizon, all dropped from December to January.
On average, the speeds reported by Netflix are less than what an ISP is actually providing, but the decreases and increases are relatively proportional and do represent trends in connection speeds. "The average is well below the peak performance due to many factors, including the variety of encodes we use to deliver the TV shows and movies," says Netflix's report.
During the last month, Verizon FiOS experienced the largest speed decrease since November 2012, when Netflix began to collect speed information. In December, Netflix reported a 2.1 Mbps average for Verizon, compared with 1.82 Mbps in January. When Netflix's numbers are scaled up to the peak ISP speeds, the decrease may be even more apparent.
Some users have already begun to claim that certain ISPs are slowing down their connections, but in the case of Netflix, that doesn't seem to be what is going on. According to Netflix, there has yet to be any evidence Verizon or another ISP is intentionally slowing down connection speeds to services that use a lot of bandwidth.
We asked Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, for his opinion on the Net neutrality ruling and whether or not it will affect situations like this. He told us that changes are likely to occur since ISPs are currently expected to invest in upgrading their infrastructure to keep up with increasing demand without any direct monetary reward for doing so.
"Companies like Netflix and Google use up an extraordinary amount of bandwidth and speed from all the Internet service providers," Kagan said. "So the ISPs have to continue to invest in the speed and capacity of the networks just to keep up with this demand, which is not even for their services.…I think it's too early to tell what's happening to the networks in the industry at this stage. But we shouldn't be surprised to see changes."