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Matt

I would be curious about what type of account he had with Netflix. Streaming only? 1 disc at a time? 8? It wouldn't surprise me if Netflix did sometimes favor the people who pay more.

Complication

Couldn't it just be that changing the account changed the assigned set of cloud servers? Netflix is very proud of their A/B testing for everything. Maybe his test group is just one in which NF is trying something new that isn't working right. Some things can't be tested until they have real world users attached.

I too have seen my Roku coming in at 2 stars rather than the usual 4 stars on my cable connection (20mbs). I figured it was just the particular show I was watching but maybe I'm in a similar test group. I'm not a high user and bandwidth is too cheap to throttle anyway. They want more streaming, not less.

Jorge

Streaming quality has been pretty bad for me the last few months.

Jason

No problems here, but I did have the bandwidth jumping all around issue over a part of the winter. It was caused by some sort of interference that was mostly solved after four line technicians worked on the outside lines. I'm not convinced that it was completely an interference issue. I think att may have an overloaded network or something that causes bandwidth quality issues. For example playing a MMO I typically play, I had a 25% packet loss and over one second latency issue. Normally it is zero packet loss and under 100 ms latency. And it wasn't the game server because I was the only one having the problem. The symptom as a result was frequent connection loss seen as everything pausing like when pausing an old school video game. The problem hadn't come back for at least almost two months now.

Ralph

After a couple of months streaming fine from Netflix on my 12mbps connection, I am suddenly getting the infamous 300 error code (network down) on occasion. Movie play is also sometimes interrupted with a message that the "network is unavailable." Other sites work fine, and my network tests at 12mbps or better consistently. Maybe the service has become too popular too quickly for them to handle?

BuyMore

Every cloud has a silver lining. If you attempt to stream a title that Netflix wants you to stream (low cost streaming rights), you should be fine. If that doesn't help, you should switch your ISP or perhaps call Chuck (he knows his way around computer systems).

Streaming is so much fun, isn't it?

Please ignore me. I'm insignificant and mean you no harm.

alan

my roku and netflix starts at 3-4- dots plays for about 1 min. then re-buffers to 2 dots then comes back with a grainy picture every time without fail same B.S...

Cmhdave73

There are message board conversations about this issue on Roku's website as well as AT&T. Most people report it's only an issue with their Roku box but not always. I've had this same issue since December or so. It's been tolerable but still a nuisance and if I cared about HD it would be unacceptable. I too have AT&T DSL 3Mbs.

RT

Recently in the last week Ive started to notice some problems. I got alot of error code 300's this week, I guess like many people did. But once the service was restored to normal....I found that alot of the shows I started streaming through my Blue Ray player were getting hung up for some intervals, and then some shows seemed to be playing at a lower bit rate.

Matthew R

I am the guy who is having the issues and here are some more details. I have a 1 disc out at a time plan because the streaming is enough between discs. I use the plan heavily between the disc and the streaming because I work from home and watch stuff while I am working. So I am guessing that Netflix makes very little off of me because I get a lot of discs per month and watch a ton of programs also (it's still under 100 GB's a month of streaming.) It can't be anything on my end, or ATT since the second I switched accounts with my Roku and computer, the streaming has been full SD quality.

To answer some of the questions/comments I've seen here:

Complication: I could see A/B'ing server, but for 4 months? One of the Netflix guys yesterday said that the Cloud was supposed to fix these kinds of issues. He said that they see my bandwidth as jumping around.

Jason: Issues with the network makes no sense since I can play something off one account poorly, switch accounts, and it plays fine. That says it's nothing to do with my internet connection and everything to do with my netflix Account/Server.

BuyMore: Netflix doesn't pay per click for their streaming rights (at least none of the deals I've seen.) They pay a flat fee for rights for the viewing period. It doesn't matter if you are playing something new or something 80 years old, Netflix isn't pay something like a penny per view to the copyright holder. It's a flat fee for them, which is why they offer unlimited streaming, because it only costs them bandwidth.

Skalligrim

Speedtest tells me I am getting 5 mbps from midnight to noon and 1 mbps from noon to midnight with an AT&T plan which is supposed to provide speeds of 3 to 6 mbps. So I get an average of 3 mbps but I can only get watchable speeds in the morning.

colm

I've had this exact issue. Everything used to stream at 4 dots or HD. Now, without fail, it will play at 4 dots, then one minute in, will drop to 2. And thats if I can even get Netflix to come on at all! Also, over the past few weeks I've been getting a lot of "This title is not currently available" messages, when they clearly are, and other "can't reach the netflix servers"esque messages on my Roku.

Amanda

Heh, mine has been better than it ever has in the last week or two. However, I stream to my computer only a couple times a week, so it's not like I'm a heavy streaming user.

Thanks to where I live, I have only the most basic connection, which means I see the buffering screen quite a bit. The last couple weeks, though, it has been very good with just a few minutes of buffering for a 42 minute tv episode.

I have wondered about how NetFlix handles heavy users. According to the statistics at FeedFliks, it looks like some accounts must stream 24/7. It makes me think they are doing something that is most likely expressly forbidden in the user agreement, along the lines of "for personal use only...." I haven't been curious enough to check it out, though, just idle musings.

John

I've experienced the same issue but did not have the option to try on a different account. It happened between the end of Lost Season 5 and the beginning of Lost Season 6. I was trying to stream all five seasons of Lost before Season 6 began. Seasons 1 through 4 were in HD but somewhere in the middle of Season 5 the quality issues began. I called Netflix and Comcast and had the exact same experience/run around.

Complication

@Amanda
Keep in mind that many accounts allow multiple streams at once. At my in-laws there are 1-3 people watching at any one time. That would explain the high statistics for some accounts on FeedFliks.

@Mathew R
If you are streaming that much then it may be your ISP that is auto-throttling you rather than NF. Although they would call it "traffic shaping" to improve the quality of their network. Changing accounts may have reset your assigned servers at NF which would have gotten around the issue until your from-to is flagged again by the ISP. I believe they do this for people using Dropbox or similar backup services that are constantly transferring files.

There is also a third-party in all this, the CDN. Netflix doesn't stream the files itself; it hands them over to a CDN with machines strategically placed (or their own network) to allow quick access to everywhere. They would have a direct line into ATT's network. I'm not sure if ATT or NF would have information on the CDN's traffic management. If you remember, there was big news a while back where a cable company wanted a CDN to pay them to dump NF and other traffic on their network.

byteme

I've been having the same issues as many others: first stream of the day starts at 3-4 dots (or full HD) then rebuffers and drops to 2 dots after a minute or so. This is my experience more than half the time.

The thing is, it usually gets better for a couple of weeks right after a service outage.

I'm still on the 3-disc plan and usually test 20-30 mbps download speeds whenever I'm having issues.

I wouldn't have thought Netflix would throttle streaming, since they seem to be trying to push everyone in that direction, but if they look at it as "traffic-shaping" the way ISPs do....

Given the info in this article, the next time I'm having an issue I'm going to unlink my Rokus from my account and then relink them to see if it helps.

Seth

Netflix doesn't pay per click for their streaming rights (at least none of the deals I've seen.) They pay a flat fee for rights for the viewing period.

Is this true? I thought Netflix said it costs them about 5 cents each time you stream a movie. Maybe they were referring to their overall costs...

IND

I got a Roku last July, it worked fine until sometime in Dec, then I'd often have problems until sometime in Feb, now it works fine. Sometimes I gat a "Netflix encountered an internal error.." or whatever when going to the netflix channel, but I dismiss the popup and everything's fine. I don't stream HD though, so I don't have any info on quality. (I have no complaint about the SD quality).

Of course it's difficult to know where bandwith issues are - you can do a speed test but all you're testing is the speed between the test server and you.

paul

i wonder if perhaps there was some caching issue at fault, which was remedied by logging out and logging in with a different account. I'd suggest switching back from your sister's account to your own and testing again.

Eric_Rosario

I got throttled for dvds but never for streaming. I was home for three months during Christmas time and cranked out over 40 hrs per week of streaming with no problem. When I first got a netflix device I had network hiccups but once I upgraded to wideband service I've never had an issue since.

Richard D

I also start out with 4 dots and within 10 minutes go to 2 dots. It's happens every night, but then I guess that is Prime time for streamers... Between that and netflix can not load, the service is suffering lately. I am using both my computer and Roku...

popsicle

If Hastings and his company we're willing to throttle us on DVD's why would anyone think it's out of the realm of posibility that the same would hold true for streaming.

Hank

It's hard to imagine that Netflix is deliberately throttling accounts that they deemed unprofitable. AFAIK there is nothing in their Terms of Use that would allow them to do so.

I'm more inclined to believe Complication's explanation (or something very similar), but more testing from Matthew would be nice (and more examples from other users even better).

For example, it would be interesting to see how Matthew's account performed on somebody else's network (preferably a super high speed network).

BP

This most likely has more to do with activating any account on your STB. Whenever I've had buffering issues, and it was at a time where AT&T had absolutely no reason to throttle me (like 3:30am on a Tuesday morning), I remember that Netflix Helps always suggested to reactivate my STB. That always seems to do the trick. Not sure why, but hey, it helps. Mostly.

As to the original letter... yes. I have 100% faith in AT&T/any ISP not to lie and say that the issue is on their end. That's why it was so easy to tell when Comcast was throttling - they came right out and said it! Nobody had to go through a horribly convoluted and highly technical process to gather enough information to prove that Comcast were throttling. Nope. Never happened. Right.

I'd blame AT&T before I'd blame Netflix. Doubly so if we're going to throw accusations of throttling around.

For what empirical evidence is worth, and that's not much at all now is it?, I have a friend who watches 6-7 hours a weekday evening of Netflix streaming and upwards of 12-15 hours on the weekend and he has never had a single buffering issue. Ever. My wife and I used to spend weekends at their house drinking and watching bad movies and I never once saw a problem.

Either Netflix isn't throttling people, or just isn't throttling them, or they're getting real lucky. Or Netflix takes pity on people who watch that much Trailer Park Boys.

-BP

Matthew Rogers

Complication: That doesn't really make any sense. Just because I use a different account shouldn't switch servers because you are supposed to be directed to the closest server due to the DNS you are using (my case, Google DNS) So you should be able to switch servers and stay on the same server because they are simply routing you to the best server based on your location, not account. At least, that's how I've heard it described before for Netflix and that makes far more sense.

BP: Unlinking and relinking my Roku/computer/etc has never helped. ATT says they don't currently packet shape, so that doesn't make any sense. Even if they did, shouldn't they have been able to tell pretty quickly that I was still accessing netflix since streaming accesses movies.netflix.com when you start streaming? If they were packet shaping as soon as I started it up again (even on a different server), their computers should have noticed that and start shaping. Therefore, I do not believe it's an ATT issue.

Leon Villanueva

im pretty sure no because i watch a crazy amount of netflix thru roku ps3 xbox and pc and i have zero issues check ur download speed and see if that is the problem google test my internet speed n see where ur at and if ur ISP is messin with you.

Complication

@Matthew Rogers
You are assuming that DNS round robin is the only way to load balance and A/B test. You would probably be right if this was YouTube and you didn't need authentication and encryption. NF servers and CDN servers have to maintain state (keep you authorized) and so once you are assigned to a server (or cluster) then you probably stay there. I'm completely guessing but I am trying to point out that it is possible.

The robustness, size, and complexity of the NF, CDN, and ATT configurations make it difficult for anyone to predict which specific physical and virtual machines that your specific connections would use. Hopefully NF has built in some data logging for when you get 2-dot and what specific machines you were attached to. This is the only way I see them figuring out what the problem is unless ATT is testing out throttling without telling their representatives (no that couldn't happen).

Tim

I've been so frustrated recently with Netflix streaming that I've nearly quit using the service. I've got a rock solid 25mbps fttp connection, no ISP throttling, latest firmware, I've rebooted, I've re-registered my device, etc. The problem happens during peak and non-peak. The service used to be decent with occasional buffering, but has been infuriating lately with frequent buffering and the infamous 300 error.
While trying to watch certain episodes of 24 about a month ago, the stream would buffer frequently. I got so frustrated at times that I'd pay to watch the episode from Amazon in "HD" just to finish the show, and Amazon delivered a stable, quality stream.
I've been a loyal Netflix customer since 2002 and continue to enjoy the physical media service, I wouldn't pay a dime for the streaming service. I don't suspect Netflix of throttling. I just think the service--while magical when it works--isn't reliable enough to be ready for prime time.

KenInCO

Google DNS and Open DNS are known to cause problems with streaming services.
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/apple/reminder-google-dns-can-slow-down-apple-tv-streaming/8960

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