If you’re a Netflix customer, your choice of ISP really shouldn’t matter. You just want to watch the new season of Orange is the New Black without suffering those pesky buffer delays. But in some cases it does matter. Netflix says some providers aren’t giving it the speed it needs for content to stream smoothly.
First it was Comcast; now Netflix says Verizon is causing problems.
Earlier in the year, Neflix accused Comcast of slowing the delivery of its content and then agreed to pay the nation’s largest cable company a premium to speed things up. What do you know? It worked. But new Netflix subscribers pay more per month for the service.
Now Netflix is accusing Verizon, which provides broadband as well as wireless service, of the same thing. Last week, Vox Media designer Yuri Victor posted a photo on Twitter of a Netflix screen with a message about an interruption to his video stream. The message wasted no words: “The Verizon network is crowded right now.” Netflix went on to say that it was “adjusting video for smoother playback.”
Not surprisingly, the message didn’t make Verizon happy. A spokesman for Verizon told CNET in an email statement that the Netflix move “is a PR stunt,” adding that his company is “investigating this claim, but it seems misleading and could confuse people.”
Ironically enough, Netflix already pays Verizon extra for more direct access to its customers. Verizon thinks it is not getting what it deserves, and the dispute got nasty quick. Of course, ISPs demanding extra money to put some content on a fast lane is exactly why net neutrality has become such a hot issue. (When comedian John Oliver riffed about net neutrality on Sunday, his fans bombarded the FCC with demands to reign in cable companies.)
Netflix keeps track of how fast its content moves across the Web and you can see the results of its recent test right here. The service that gives Netflix customers the fastest stream for their money is Google Fiber, followed by seven companies you may never have heard of. If you’re a Comcast customer, your service is roughly 25 percent slower than’s Googles and it ranks sixteenth on Netflix’s list of 60 ISPs. Verizon Fios (which is touted as Verizon’s high-speed offering) is much lower, ranking forty-eighth and is about 45 percent slower than Google Fiber, according to Netflix.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.