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Enraged Verizon FiOS Customer Seemingly Demonstrates Netflix Throttling 398

Posted by timothy
from the choking-hard dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes The ongoing battle between Netflix and ISPs that can't seem to handle the streaming video service's traffic, boiled over to an infuriating level for Colin Nederkoon, a startup CEO who resides in New York City. Rather than accept excuses and finger pointing from either side, Nederkoon did a little investigating into why he was receiving such slow Netflix streams on his Verizon FiOS connection. What he discovered is that there appears to be a clear culprit. Nederkoon pays for Internet service that promises 75Mbps downstream and 35Mbps upstream through his FiOS connection. However, his Netflix video streams were limping along at just 375kbps (0.375mbps), equivalent to 0.5 percent of the speed he's paying for. On a hunch, he decided to connect to a VPN service, which in theory should actually make things slower since it's adding extra hops. Speeds didn't get slower, they got much faster. After connecting to VyprVPN, his Netflix connection suddenly jumped to 3000kbps, the fastest the streaming service allows and around 10 times faster than when connecting directly with Verizon. Verizon may have a different explanation as to why Nederkoon's Netflix streams suddenly sped up, but in the meantime, it would appear that throttling shenanigans are taking place. It seems that by using a VPN, Verizon simply doesn't know which packets to throttle, hence the gross disparity in speed.
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Enraged Verizon FiOS Customer Seemingly Demonstrates Netflix Throttling

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  • Thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2014 @07:32AM (#47537815)

    Now they'll just throttle VPN traffic too.

    • Someone should invent SSL!
    • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Casualposter (572489) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @08:01AM (#47537881) Journal

      SO when you pay for that service it says something like "up to 75mbps" which in reality means that the speed test and google's home page could see that much speed and everyone else will look like dial up from the 1990's.

      It would be much better if the services had to advertise their average speed across the most popular sites. That way if they throttle Netflix to .375mpbs, they have to inform customers that while they are paying $125/month for "blazing fast speed" they are actually getting blazingly fast dial up speeds.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2014 @09:51AM (#47538311)

        375k!?

        No, I get your point... just...

      • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mysidia (191772) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @10:10AM (#47538397)

        SO when you pay for that service it says something like "up to 75mbps" which in reality means that the speed test and google's home page could see that much speed and everyone else will look like dial up from the 1990's.

        I have a suggestion.... Web browsers should take some measurements and display prominently in a visible status bar or other location.... average TCP throughput --- And Estimated average bandwidth;

        Both a "this site" value, a "this browser session" value, and (Optionally) if the user decides to share their numbers, Community average bandwidth for this site, Community average bandwidth for this ISP, and Community average for this site on this ISP.

        If Community average for this site on this ISP is more than a standard deviation below Community average for this site,

        Then a little warning exclamation point should appear to the right of the browser bar. On mouseover, and for a few seconds after loading the page, a little warning bubble should appear for a few seconds. "Your internet service provider seems to have below average performance in loading this page."

        • by Anonymous Coward
          While such numbers might result in some net gain, it will probably end up pissing off ISPs to the point of either finding ways of faking the data, blocking the data, or just as policy telling customers to ignore the speed numbers. I still remember the stints I had doing help desk with people calling in for "MSN is down, but rest of the internet works, fix it fix it fix it," and "joesbasementserver.com is loading really slow, something must be wrong with my computer." A lot of people won't be able to disti
          • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mysidia (191772) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @01:17PM (#47539297)

            It will probably end up pissing off ISPs to the point of either finding ways of faking the data, blocking the data, or just as policy telling customers to ignore the speed numbers.

            If the data is blocked, the browser should figure out why and explain to the user that there seems to be an issue with their network; in other words "Blocking" should make it even worse for the ISP. a smarter browser UI could be a tremendous help to support technicians, which the ISPs should absolutely love ---- perhaps even tell the user exactly which entity to contact, even display their ISP's support number on the screen, to help accelerate the problem resolution process, and providing access to comments by other users of the same ISP, leading to happier customers, and customers who can share info with each other pertinent to troubleshooting or why this is happening, etc.

            A lot of people won't be able to distinguish when something is their ISP's fault and when it might be the end servers fault.

            I am suggesting the browser should also take some responsibility to the interpretation of the results here. There should be a highly visible "troubleshooting" button that causes some tests to be run. Explanations should be right there in a natural language that any English speaker could understand.

            The browser should not show an alert if there is not enough data to make a conclusion with a fair measure of statistical confidence.

            We can definitely make a strong distinguishment between a "web site performance issue" and a client connectivity issue, with data from a sufficient number of users.

            The browser would also need to take into account geographic location and client connectivity, however.

            e.g. Is the site slow because the visitor is half way around the world from the nearest mirror, or is it slow because they're connecting over congested WiFi or 3G networks, instead of a wired connection?

            I realize it's not "easy", but the web browser is the only software component that is in a position to take the kinds of measurements that are required and help alert the user to the problem, tell the user which entity they should contact, and assist with troubleshooting.

        • SO when you pay for that service it says something like "up to 75mbps" which in reality means that the speed test and google's home page could see that much speed and everyone else will look like dial up from the 1990's.

          I have a suggestion.... Web browsers should take some measurements and display prominently in a visible status bar or other location.... average TCP throughput --- And Estimated average bandwidth;

          Both a "this site" value, a "this browser session" value, and (Optionally) if the user decides to share their numbers,
          Community average bandwidth for this site, Community average bandwidth for this ISP, and Community average for this site on this ISP.

          If Community average for this site on this ISP is more than a standard deviation below Community average for this site,

          Then a little warning exclamation point should appear to the right of the browser bar.
          On mouseover, and for a few seconds after loading the page, a little warning bubble should appear for a few seconds.
          "Your internet service provider seems to have below average performance in loading this page."

          So tcp 80 won't be throttled but whatever netflix (or whatever) uses will be -

      • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @10:45AM (#47538523) Journal

        Wrong..

        It is fraid for any ISP to purposely limit speed and bandwidth below the advertised speed speed while the network can handle it (congestion). No matter how you look at it, the up to speeds will never be availible when they purposely limit it.

        This should be dealt with by consumer protection law (paying for services not delivered and possibly bait and switch or a host of others). People need to complain in those terms to thier state utilities commision or consumer protection department and file lawsuits over the said laws. Verizon and other ISPs will stop doing it and possibly be fined in the process.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2014 @07:36AM (#47537825)

    It is also possible the the VPN packets are transiting a different upstream peer from Verizon and bypassing the peering bottleneck at issue. Assuming that Verizon is performing inspection of packets and throttling only Netflix packets is quite a leap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by knightghost (861069)

      Not so much of a leap since Verizon and Comcast have admitted to such.

      Wouldn't a simple tracert show the route (and any differences)?

    • by pla (258480) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @07:56AM (#47537877) Journal
      It is also possible the the VPN packets are transiting a different upstream peer from Verizon and bypassing the peering bottleneck at issue. Assuming that Verizon is performing inspection of packets and throttling only Netflix packets is quite a leap.

      Failing to have peerage agreements in place to honor your downstream sales commitments is a form of throttling - Or, I would daresay, a form of outright fraud.

      If I offer to sell you "unlimited" beers from my fridge for $50 a month, but I only resupply it at a rate of one six-pack per week, I have intentionally cheated you. That basic relationship doesn't magically change because of some hand-waving technobabble about peerage agreements and network congestion.

      (Yes, I know those don't strictly count as technobabble, and what they really mean - But they effectively reduce to Verizon having zero interest in upgrading its infrastructure to support its commitments to their customers as long as the FCC and FTC will allow them to outright lie)
      • by Wdomburg (141264)

        I would think the more apt analogy is that you sold me unlimited access to your fridge (bandwidth) but Netflix (content provider) is only restocking at a rate of one six-pack per week. IOW, Netflix is the one failing to have peerage agreements in place to honor their downstream sales commitments.

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @09:07AM (#47538113) Journal

        If I offer to sell you "unlimited" beers from my fridge for $50 a month, but I only resupply it at a rate of one six-pack per week, I have intentionally cheated you. That basic relationship doesn't magically change because of some hand-waving technobabble about peerage agreements and network congestion.

        This analogy is a little flawed. Let me correct it. Let us say the local municipality has granted pla (258480) a local monopoly in selling beer to its residents. And you sell beer at different service level all unlimited number of trips to the fridge, but at 1 trip/hr, 1trip/6 hours, 1 trip/min, 1 trip/sec etc. And you stock it with brewed-by-your-local-sewage-company beer all the time, and stock Buds, Coors and Coronas one bottle a month. Then your analogy is complete.

        What is really insidious is, pla is NOT buying any beer. All the beer companies come stock the fridge for free. Pla's only cost is keeping the beer cool. And it does not cost any more to cool a bottle of Corona than to cool a bottle of brew-from-sewer. Just because pla noticed people are drinking Corona more, pla wants Corona to pay him more money. Remember it is a monopoly. Corona has no other way of selling its beer without going through pla's fridge. Now you get the idea.

      • Failing to have peerage agreements in place to honor your downstream sales commitments is a form of throttling - Or, I would daresay, a form of outright fraud.

        Only problem with that is Verizon has TONS of under-used transit capacity with other networks - when Verizon posted their thing about peering points with Netflix's partners, they also mentioned that their transit to other networks at times where Netflix was hitting 100% was only ~40% on average.

        So, Verizon would have plenty of transit capacity if it was spread more evenly across all the peering Verizon has.

    • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @08:29AM (#47537941) Homepage

      It is also possible the the VPN packets are transiting a different upstream peer from Verizon and bypassing the peering bottleneck at issue. Assuming that Verizon is performing inspection of packets and throttling only Netflix packets is quite a leap.

      This is exactly what's happening. I do the same thing for a specific server I use. Standard routing via FiOS results in consistent 1mb download speeds. I set up a GRE tunnel to my VPS host and I get consistent 10mb download speeds. The culprit appears to be a shitty peering connection between so-4-1-0-0.LAX01-BB-RTR1.verizon-gni.net (130.81.151.246) and 0.ae2.XL3.CHI13.ALTER.NET (140.222.225.187).

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        Wow alternet, there's a name I haven't heard in a while. Maybe they just never upgraded their T1 line.
    • by Andrio (2580551)

      If only magical boxes existed that could intelligently and automatically find the fastest route for traffic.

      But what would we call these magical routing boxes?

      • The problem with the 'fastest' route is that it may not be the CHEAPEST route.

        If L3 really wanted to relieve pressure on their bottlenecked links to Verizon instead of trying to turn this into a PR exercise to make Verizon cave in, they could re-route traffic through Verizon's other peers with under-loaded links but that could cost L3 more money and possibly cause peering disputes with those other peers.

    • I would even say, it's quite a Quantum Leap, unfortunately it's unavailable to stream on Netflix Canada. Which is funny because it's probably available on Netflix USA which I could access via VPN too.

    • by mjm1231 (751545)

      This doesn't change the fact that the customer paid for 75Mbps and got... a lot less.

  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Saturday July 26, 2014 @07:37AM (#47537829) Homepage

    Routing traffic via the VPN changes the path the traffic flows over, possibly avoiding routes that are saturated and (who knows) pending upgrade.

    It's tempting to imagine the internet as a giant blob of fungible bandwidth, but in reality it's just a big mess of cables some of which are higher capacity than others. Assuming malice is fun, but there isn't enough data here to say one way or another.

    • by Ecuador (740021)
      Except Verizon here lets just some "low capacity" cables connect them to Netflix's provider on purpose (as illustrated in a recent /. article), so there can be no other reason apart from extorting money. And for the speed to actually going down with time it probably means that instead of "upgrading" capacity they are probably doing the opposite to force Netflix. And they are lowering the speed slowly otherwise their customers would figure it out and start rioting (but many don't have any recourse as in, alt
    • by jaseuk (217780)

      This has been rather done to death (http://www.extremetech.com/computing/186576-verizon-caught-throttling-netflix-traffic-even-after-its-pays-for-more-bandwidth) , but Verizon doesn't appear to be throttling or shaping Netflix. They are running their peered links to Layer 3 at 100% capacity. Traffic that doesn't go via Layer 3 does not suffer. So if you find an alternative route that doesn't use Netflix's Layer 3 peering connections (such as a VPN) then things run well.

      For this to be resolved, people re

      • It's not just Level3 (not Layer 3), it's also Alternet and possibly others. Peering has gotten tough. It's supposed to be hey, let's connect our stuff together because I want to send you a bunch of stuff and you want to send me a bunch of stuff and we both win. The Internet has evolved and that has resulted in asymmetric traffic flows where one party carries more (sometimes far more) of the burden than the other, but the cost models have remained the same.

        In Verizon's mind, they receive no benefit from incr

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          That is true perhaps.

          However, this is all entirely Verizon's fault. They are the entity in this arrangement that has actively encouraged assymetric use of the net by offering assymeteric service. It's really rich to see ISPs complain that they are getting too much traffic all in one direction then that's how they f*cking design their service.

          Verizon is selling massive downloads. So is every other consumer ISP.

          • They are the entity in this arrangement that has actively encouraged assymetric use of the net by offering assymeteric service.

            This is half true. Verizon is selling asymmetric services (although they are changing most FiOS plans to symmetric [fiercetelecom.com]).

            What is not true is that asymmetric connections encourages asymmetric usage. It's the other way around, and has been since the days of dialup.

            • by i.r.id10t (595143)

              If residential use was closer to symmetric, just what would the outgoing content be, and how many people would want to be consuming it?

              Not only that, but just how many of the residential type customers *want* to be hosting services and offering content? How many kernel source mirrors, debian/ubuntu/mint/whatever binaries mirrors, etc. do we need?

              Residential, and probably quite a few business accounts, are always going to be consuming more than producing.

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          They forgot one thing, though; their residential customers. They are the ones who need the additional capacity, and without it their service will continue to degrade.

          You're giving Verizon too much credit: the way you write this, you imply they care about their customers and the service they offer.

      • You say "Layer 3"(a step in the OSI model), do you mean "Level 3"(an ISP)? They are the ISP and backbone provider that has owns the CDN appliances caching and delivering the [majority of] Netflix streams in the USA.

    • by dfghjk (711126)

      "It's tempting to imagine the internet as a giant blob of fungible bandwidth, but in reality it's just a big mess of cables some of which are higher capacity than others."

      No, it's a giant blob of fungible bandwidth when you are talking about large ISPs and major media sites. It's not the dark ages.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps (1157495)

      Routing traffic via the VPN changes the path the traffic flows over, possibly avoiding routes that are saturated and (who knows) pending upgrade.

      It's tempting to imagine the internet as a giant blob of fungible bandwidth, but in reality it's just a big mess of cables some of which are higher capacity than others. Assuming malice is fun, but there isn't enough data here to say one way or another.

      I suspect that whats going on is that Netflix put the majority of their traffic on Level3 and Level3 is trying to charge Verizon an exorbitant rate for enough bandwidth to handle that peer. Verizon said "No" and told Netflix to go with another peer. So Verizon has plenty of bandwidth, Netflix has plenty of bandwidth... it's where those peers are located that's the problem. Level3 has been giving Netflix huge discounts to try and force ISPs into unfriendly peer agreements.

      So yes, if you VPN'd out to somewher

      • by guises (2423402)

        I suspect that whats going on is that Netflix put the majority of their traffic on Level3 and Level3 is trying to charge Verizon an exorbitant rate for enough bandwidth to handle that peer.

        It's Verizon who is trying to charge for access to their customers (who have already payed for the service that they're not getting), not the other way around.

      • by Drakonblayde (871676) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @09:15AM (#47538167)

        I suspect that whats going on is that Netflix put the majority of their traffic on Level3 and Level3 is trying to charge Verizon an exorbitant rate for enough bandwidth to handle that peer. Verizon said "No" and told Netflix to go with another peer. So Verizon has plenty of bandwidth, Netflix has plenty of bandwidth... it's where those peers are located that's the problem.

        Ok, but you're wrong.

        Level3 has admitted they have settlement free peering with Verizon. Level3 does not pay Verizon anything. Verizon does not pay Level3 anything.

        Netflix pays Level3. This is why Level3 gives a shit about this situation.

        What's going on is that Verizon is trying to cut out the middleman. Verizon wants Netflix to pay them to get traffic into their network instead of paying Level3 to deliver traffic into the Verizon network. Why? Because they don't make any money from Level3.

        Naturally, Level3 is all in a huff about Verizon trying to fuck with their revenue stream.

        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          Is Verizon service even available wherever the main netflix datacenter(s) is/are? If it is, wouldn't they just need to offer a better monthly connection rate, or better speed for the same rate, and let it be a "normal" competitive service for business?

          • by alen (225700)

            they are in the process of doing direct peering with netflix like comcast is doing, but it's taking a while

            when the comcast deal was announced they had already done the engineering, etc
            with verizon they have to build out the peering location and they are saying sometime this year

        • by evilviper (135110)

          Level3 does not pay Verizon anything. Verizon does not pay Level3 anything.

          Yes, but there's 2 things going on that you're neglecting to mention.

          1) When Level3 started delivering Netflix streams, suddenly their peering traffic was extremely unbalanced... That's when one side has to start paying the other. Verizon wants Level3 to pay, but they won't, so Verizon refuses to upgrade the interconnect. In the bad old days, these peering disputes ended with a disconnect, and big portions of the internet broke o

    • by GNious (953874)

      Wouldn't a trace-route serve to show whether traffic is flowing over a distinctly different route?

      • by MrL0G1C (867445)

        No, the traceroute wouldn't show the hops between your PC and the VPN server, so that part of path could not be compared. So the point the VPN packets leave the ISP network also couldn't be compared.

        You could probably compare an unencrypted proxy with a direct route to Netflix.

        • by oobayly (1056050)

          Surely what you'd do is traceroute to the VPN server, which will show you where the packets leave the ISP network (as long as the VPN is outside of it), and then traceroute to Netflix via the VPN. The compare it do the route taken directly to Netflix.

    • People assume that the Internet is a strict connection from server to client. But actually from a non-linear, non-connected viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, streamey-wimey... bits.

  • Role reversal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 26, 2014 @07:46AM (#47537851)

    I have to wonder, what would happen if customers were to start throttling the payment of ISP's?
    "You will get your payment when you actually fulfil your end of our contract, but not before."

    • You really have to wonder? Late payment fees is all they will get.
    • by Omeganon (104525)

      (*) actual speeds not guaranteed.

      It's in every agreement so to them, they _are_ providing the service they claim.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Those customers will just get disconnected.

    • by green1 (322787)

      Simple, they cut off your service for non-payment, and you move your internet connection to the competi....er... well, does Netflix still run a DVD service?

    • I have to wonder, what would happen if customers were to start throttling the payment of ISP's?
      "You will get your payment when you actually fulfil your end of our contract, but not before."

      You should go review your contract.

  • Verizon is too big, and our government does not care.

    The only answer is to actively work to destroy Verizon until they acquiesce or no longer exist.

    • by alphatel (1450715) *

      Verizon is too big, and our government does not care.

      The only answer is to actively work to destroy Verizon until they acquiesce or no longer exist.

      Strange, it feels like we already did that once [wikipedia.org].

  • vpn throttling, here we come
    • by Virtucon (127420)

      I was going to say that. They'll just play whack-a-mole and start throttling that traffic next.

  • Verizon doesn't care. They own RedBox Instant; they last thing they want is customers using Netflix. We're not gonna get net neutrality out of the FCC (the public comments are a sham; the FCC only care about the businesses involved in the decision); so this is not going to get fixed. If Netflix uses Level3; they were cripple all level3 connectivity.
  • I recently upgraded my FIOS service and they used Netflix streaming as one of the reasons that I should do it. After going from 25/5 to 50/25 I still get downgraded quality when watching flix.

  • First off, I assert that whether Verizon is actively throttling packets, or simply not providing sufficient peering to get to Netflix, they are committing fraud by advertising high speeds and not delivering them.

    However, to *really* convince people, more rigorous experiment has to be performed: find a VPN (or set up your own with a colo) that's connected as closely to Verizon as possible, as close to their peering with Netflix as possible. That way the route between Verizon and your VPN/colo is as similar
  • by butchersong (1222796) on Saturday July 26, 2014 @10:20AM (#47538439)
    This is not news. Verizon, Netflix and customers all already know what the problem is. Routing around the bottleneck (saturated interconnect) by using a VPN will obviously avoid the bottleneck... I don't understand why this was posted as a story.
  • The FCC should make Comcast and Verizon and all these other companies chose... They can be content creation companies or bandwidth providers, but not both. This is all about making it easier and more convenient to pay them for their video services than to attempt to get it from a third party it's monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior...

  • by Agripa (139780) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @11:41AM (#47543697)

    Back when I was in the process of switching providers, I bought a subscription to a VPN service so I could have a secure connection and routable IP through public internet access points. Later one of the things I noticed with my new AT&T U-Verse service was that *all* access was faster in either latency or throughput using the VPN to tunnel through U-Verse to half way across the US including things like DNS. Some things were a little bit faster and some things were an order of magnitude faster.

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