Sunday, February 10, 2008

Netflix Instant View Overloaded?

Has Netflix gotten ahead of it's system capacity in a push to increase usage of it's year old instant viewing feature? Since the instant feature came online last year, my pc has always qualified for the highest Video Quality through the service, that is until this weekend. Friday night, I went to finish watching a film I began watching last weekend ("The Sand Pebbles" which I would recommend based on the first 40 minutes), and was surprised to find that my connection was rated for only Basic quality video. I wasn't too concerned with the demotion, until I saw the remarkable loss of viewability in the Basic quality service. Scenes which had appearecd sharp in full screen mode at High quality, now appeared blurry in the initial small screen mode.

At first, I assumed that the issue was on my end. I contacted my ISP to find out if my throughput was being channeled down on their end. After testing my service using their equipment, the phone technician at my ISP said everything looked good with my service, and pointed me to an independent speed rating site speedtest.net, to test my speeds for myself. At Speedtest, which is also recommended as a test site by Netflix, I was able to confirm that my connection was consistently able to support over 6 Mbps download speeds.

According to Netflix, the relationship between download rate and instant viewing quality should breakdown as follows: 1.6 - 2.2 or greater Mbps --> High, 1.0 - 1.5 Mbps --> Good, under 1.0 --> Basic. At these rates, my service should allow me to continue to, as I had for the past year, view Netflix movies instantly with the highest picture quality, which I had fealt was quite good, instead of the Basic level which I have found to be unwatchable.

The Netflix help page suggests that, if connection quality problems do not originate with your ISP, they may originate from your wireless network. My older wireless-B network consistently showed an excellent connection, which should allow for 11 Mbps throughput, but to be safe I went to speedtest.net again via my wireless connection. (MyISP had insisted that they would only work with speed issues for PCs on wired connections.) I was surprised to see that my speedtest result for wireless -- despite the excellent connection rating showing on my PC -- was actually about half as fast as my wired connection, but at 3.34 Mbps my download speed still appears to qualify me for the High quality service with room to spare.

Based on these investigations, I'm inclined to conclude that the problem is in fact on Netflix's end. It would not be terribly surprising if they are experiencing problems handling the growing demands on their capacity driven by recent publicity about their new policy of allowing unlimited instant viewing for all but their lowest subscription level users. I'm interested to see if others have experienced the same drop off in connection quality rating that I have in the past few days, and what, if any, techniques others have found to overcome the seemingly deceptive poor ratings.

13 comments:

Jonny said...

I have the same issue on Netflix Instant Viewing also. Watched for the last year just fine and then in the last week it has slowed down. I did the exact same steps you did to resolve including contacting ISP. My download is always 4MB or higher on all the speed test sites and my upload is always 700K or higher. That is plenty of throughput for the highest quality according to Netflix. I have also come to the conclusion that the issue is on the Netflix end and not my PC or ISP. Videos used to stream at about 4.5MB before but now only streams at 1.5MB (I was keeping track with NetMeter). Now all we can do is wait for Netflix to get more bandwidth available or upgrade servers and other equipment to handle the loads.

alansduq said...

January 11 2009
Also not working well here. Site will not even get past the checking connection page. Other times Netflix claims the connection is too slow but everywhere else is 5 mbs. Also they appear to completely done away with website support. How convenient.
One other possibility I have heard of is that the ISP will throttle your speed back without you knowing if they feel your using too much downloads.

Odatpotter said...

I'm inclied to thing it's at Netfix end as well. Having Comcast Cable, my wirlesss connection was fine up until about April of 08.

Then Watch now would just lock up. Very annoying. So I ended up going hardwire to the router. This made no diference. So now it's a crap shoot.

I was watching earlier today and it was fine. But now, tonight I can't stream at all. I just ran a speed test and the problem is not at my end. My ISP is not throddeling me back either.

I hope they get a bigger pipe, or kill the service. Pointlees to have it if it doesn't work.

~Cheers

Lizard said...

Same thing happening to me. My download speeds far exceed Netflix's high bar, and my quality had always been high since instant watch first came out. But this past month, it's almost always basic quality, sometimes good, and almost never high anymore. It's quite obviously a problem on Netflix's end. It would just be nice if they would admit it instead of keeping their customers in the dark, forcing them to do speed tests and call their ISPs lol.

Brennan said...

It's got to be on Netflix's end. After going around with them and my ISP, running Tracerts and speed tests, the Netflix tech pretty much admitted they were having trouble keeping up. He offered no hope in sight. I can get a high signal during the day, but I can't watch at night. Bummer.

Erik said...

Both my mom and I view instant Netflix movies via Tivo. I have 10 Mbit service from Charter. I routinely get the highet possible quality (always at least 11 out of 14 bars). My Mom has 15MBit service from Cox and routinely gets low quality (only a few bars). Speedtest.net reveals my connection to be just as advertised and shows my mom's to run at 13 MBit (faster than mine). I she goes to the Netfilx web site and checks the speed it always shows basic, where as mine is the highest possible level. In both cases the Tivos are hard wired (100 Mbit) to the router connected to the cable modem. All other internet activites seem to perform well.
Anyone else experiencing similar performance on very high speed cable internet connections?

Scott said...

Same story here, guys.

I just hopped on to Netflix's Instant Watch. My ISP is Cox Communications and I have their 'Premier' cable speeds. Speedtest.net gives me an average of 7.4mg/sec. download speed. This is during HIGH traffic times. After going several rounds with Netflix phone support and calling Cox -- I agree with the post: IT'S ON NETFLIX'S END! Of course they won't admit it to you. They blamed my ISP, blamed FireFox, blamed my router and even blamed my system. I am running an AMD 6000+ processor with 4GB of memory on a gigabit enabled network. Even running straight to my cable modem and using Internet Explorer -- nothing. All I come up with is BASIC. I would ask for my $8.99, but I figure Netflix could probably use it.

I told them if I wanted to watch youtube quality videos then I wouldn't need to pay for it here at Netflix. Also - even when I do get the HIGH quality (only during non-peak hours) the video isn't any better than what hulu.tv (free) offers. I'm disappointed by Netflix ... yet again.

Great post - get the word out there!

ave. ping: 12ms
ave. dl speed: 7.4mg/sec.
located in OKC, pinging the Dallas server.

jwhaynes said...

I too have been having problems with download or buffering times with Netflix in the evening. Before 3pm in Phoenix, it buffers lightning fast, but well into the evening, it takes 6 minutes or longer, and if I try to rewind to a scene or fast forward, it takes another 6 minutes. I called Netflix support, and the tech said he had the same problem in the evening. First, he tried to blame it on my internet speed in the evening, but I still have 5mb/s or better in the evening...well above the Netflix recommended. As well, I feel with the others, that Netflix Instant View subscribers are using this feature more than Netflix equipment can't keep up with the evening demand, and won't admit it. I figured that $8.99 per month was too good to be true, but I guess Netflix refused better service service to keep the price. Hopefully, they won't raise the price with the same level of service. I would have paid more. I was considering buying the $99 Roku box and giving out Netflix gift certificates, but not anymore.

mike said...

been told that netflix is only streaming at about 400k and with there patent they were given which is bull crap there wont be much if any comp to make them provide better service

zim41 said...

My download speed is in excess of 15mbps and I have frequent interruptions. I have to close IE and restart IE, then Netflix, then the movie. They claim I may have inconsistent internet speed, to slow a processor, or that I should re install Silverlight. All I can say is that I had no problems even with an Intel Atom processor before Silverlight. I believe Netflix is having problems with Silverlight and that they are working on a new release. I can watch network TV shows on the network web sights with no interruptions. I believe the problem lies with Netflix.

Joseph G. Krygier said...

Same issue, a detail different. No answer so far and only occurs later in the evening so far.
Once connected showing 3 blue bars and a speedtest of around 2700-2800, after a few minutes I get the first, your connection and slowed (even when it does not) we are etc. etc. Once that occurs it keeps happening every 3-4 minutes for the rest of the film. I have a dedicated dsl line from Verizon with no phone filters.( who I don't trust completely to not reroute when busier), but up until a few weeks ago this was never a problem. I am in
a Mac environmet. No difference between my wireless or ethernet stats. Almost never drop below 2.5 -2.9 mbs.

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Andre said...

Same issue here except it usually only seems to happen when streaming tv shows, movies are usually fine. Used to watch on high quality with no problem then sometime early march 2011 it starts getting low quality and repeatedly gives "connection has slowed" message. Even after it reloads it often is skippy and I have to refresh the page several times.

I have Qwest DSL rated at 12MB download connection speed. Speedtest.net shows usually 10MB down with ping between 40 and 90.

I would agrtee, it's a safe bet that the connection problems are on Netflix's end.