Netflix Is Actually Getting Faster on Comcast

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 16 2014 4:06 PM

Netflix Is Actually Getting Faster on Comcast

netflix
Comcast is movin' on up in Netflix's speed rankings.

Chart by Netflix.

When Netflix and Comcast signed an agreement to give Netflix direct access to Comcast's network, it raised questions about peering and net neutrality. It's definitely controversial, but is it working? Yeah. Yeah it is.

According to new data released by Netflix, customers with Comcast Internet have been seeing major speed improvements since the deal in February. Comcast moved up six places in Netflix's carrier speed rankings to No. 5. Other carriers in the top 10 lost a spot or stayed the same—Comcast was the only ISP that gained.

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Joris Evers, a spokesperson for Netflix, wrote in a blog post, "This month’s rankings are a great illustration of how performance can improve when ISPs work to connect directly to Netflix. In the US, the average speed on the Comcast network for Netflix streams is up 65 percent from 1.51Mbps in January to 2.5Mbps in March."

Though it's good news for Netflix, the company's CEO Reed Hastings took to the blog last month to advocate for net neutrality. He described deals like the one Netflix made with Comcast as "arbitrary tax[es]" and explained how these fees can create inequality on the Web.

Some major ISPs, like Cablevision, already practice strong net neutrality and for their broadband subscribers, the quality of Netflix and other streaming services is outstanding. But on other big ISPs, due to a lack of sufficient interconnectivity, Netflix performance has been constrained ... Once Netflix agrees to pay the ISP interconnection fees, however, sufficient capacity is made available and high quality service for consumers is restored. If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future.

Given the speed improvements from this deal, it doesn’t seem like Netflix will be going back on it any time soon, no matter how much Reed Hastings hates the situation on principle. So if Comcast is your ISP and Netflix is blissfully fast for you now, you might as well enjoy it even if a byproduct is the degradation of Internet equality. Who would say no to the end of buffering?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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