The Battle Between ISPs and Video Streamers Intensifies

While the fate of net neutrality remains undecided, video streamers and ISPs continue their war of words.

video streaming

Slow Internet speeds are the bane of video streamers. As cord cutting becomes a better option, and video streaming increases its bandwidth demands every year, streaming providers have started poking at ISPs to increase their speeds. YouTube now displays a small notification when buffering is slow, and Netflix has been calling out ISPs like Verizon when quality dropped.

Google has been offering consumers tools to rank ISPs’ video-streaming capacity for several months now. The Google Video Quality Report was initially trialed in Canada, but is now available across the U.S. The tool allows consumers to compare providers in their area, and hopefully select the service that is “YouTube HD Verified.”

However, since late May, a notification pops up below YouTube videos when users experience slow speeds. The blue bar takes users to a help page, which largely directs blame at ISPs. “If you’re having issues with your Internet Service Provider, or would like to provide them feedback, please contact them directly,” the page reads. Google is perhaps prompting users to make some angry phone calls to their ISP, asking them to increase speeds, or get rid of data throttling.

Until last month, Netflix used a similar tactic to shame ISPs. Indeed, Netflix has been at the center of the net neutrality debate, and has been blamed for slow Internet speeds. But the company struck a controversial deal with some ISPs. It might look like Netflix sold out but the intent is still clear: Netflix, like YouTube, wants the best service possible, and when that doesn’t happen, the streaming services want the blame to land squarely on those providing the Internet service.

Verizon threatened to sue, and Netflix said they wouldn’t stop calling the provider out — but the message seems to have disappeared. Still, the strategy of calling out ISPs is great for Google and Netflix, because it pushes the debate away from streamers hogging bandwidth, and places the blame on ISPs dragging their heels on upgrading networks.

Verizon, fed up with Netflix’s accusations, took a closer look at its network connections, and said in a blog post that the slow streaming was in fact the fault of Netflix. Here’s how the company illustrated the problem:


Verizon also hypothesized that “for whatever reason (perhaps to cut costs and improve its profitability), Netflix did not make arrangements to deliver this massive amount of traffic through connections that can handle it.”

The company said it was “working aggressively with Netflix” on the connections between Netflix’s network and Verizon’s.

Netflix issued its own statement saying that the congestion is due to Verizon’s failure “to upgrade those interconnections.”

Indeed, it looks like the two companies are playing a PR game with each other, as they agreed to a deal in April. A similar deal with Comcast resulted in much higher speeds for consumers because the two companies worked together on developing the infrastructure before a deal was reached, according to Ars Technica. “Verizon, on the other hand, seems not to have done any major technical work until after signing its deal with Netflix.”

Streaming audiences are only going to continue growing, and it doesn’t look like the bickering between video streamers and ISPs is going to stop anytime soon, even after agreeing to pay for play.