Over the last few months I’d received countless emails from Comcast users who stumbled across my last article (Comcast Internet Speed Problems – January 21) as they tried to find answer to why their internet service has gotten slow.
Today I received this letter and PROOF from a reader who chooses to remain nameless:
“I came across your great piece on Comcast throttling from January of this year. In that post you listed two possibilities of why comcast was throttling traffic from Level3. I would like to suggest a third and much more obnoxious possibility. Comcast is first and foremost a video content company. The internet thing is just a sideline to them. Meanwhile, they are losing the sale of video content to netflix through their own subscribers, which competes directly with Comcast’s new Fancast product over Xfinity. Amazon (which I don’t think uses level3 exclusively) instant video is also being slowed. I get bottom rate performance on both, yet I didn’t have this problem when I was with Charter cable internet (they don’t have a web based video content product).
I think that Comcast is throttling the video content competition.
I noticed some other things that tend to corroborate this hypothesis. Comcast has been fiercely bidding for exclusive rights to content. Fancast has picked up exclusive rights to shows such as Miami Vice, the Star Trek TOS based movies, etc., where netflix USED to have them but no longer does. I think comcast is involved in an all out war to become the internet video content provider of choice.
I also determined that the throttling was local. Run speakeasy speed test as the only open window. You get full speed. Then connect to netflix and start a video, pause it, and wait about 30 seconds. This will keep the connection open (for about 7 minutes) but will not transfer any data that would adversely affect the speed test. Then, in another window, run the speed test again. You will notice that the speed is severely diminished. Then disconnect from netflix, wait 60 seconds, and run the test again. Speed will be back to normal. Same thing happens with Amazon instant video.
If I am right, it’s a very ugly thing.“
So of course, the first thing I did was to attempt this same test myself to see if this was true. Below are screenshots of this test, performed at 6pm this evening. The testing methodology in my home was even more intriguing because I run Netflix on my Logitech Revue: all that was running on my PC was a single browser… So there is no possibility at all of this being a problem with Windows networking or computer performance!
Almost 17Mbps down, and over 5Mbps upstream: this is the service I am paying for. Everything is quite speedy and perfectly normal.
Without doing anything on the PC, I walked over to the Revue, turned it on, started Netflix, and picked out an episode of Firefly. Once it queued up and started playing, I hit pause and waited a minute. (Note that Netflix is not buffering video at this point, so any reduced speeds cannot be blamed on video being streamed.)
Then I went back to the PC and simply re-ran the same test. This time my speed registered as less than 6Mbps down and the same 5Mbps up. Yes, you read that right: my download speed had been cut down to 1/3 of what it was!
If there was any doubt in my mind that Comcast is throttling my internet service, this conclusively proves it.
Another factor that comes into play that most people aren’t aware of is this: Netflix automatically adjusts the compression of the video you are watching to match the bandwidth going to your device! This is actually a great feature of Netflix that assures you get responsive video no matter what kind of internet service you have.
BUT… It begs the question: Will this throttling result in me getting a lower quality video than I would if it were not throttled? I’m sure Comcast would love that, because it would make their own streaming video offering look fantastic in comparison.
Now the question is, as a consumer, do I have any rights? If a business sells me a service that claims it is at one speed, and delivers something else and intentionally hides that fact that it is doing it, (refer to my original article to read how Comcast support intentionally misdirects users into thinking it’s just the computer or the websites they are visiting that are the problem) is that not Bait and Switch?