Verizon blaming Netflix for slow streaming speeds is an 'attempt at deception' says Internet backbone provider

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The Internet just got its back(bone) up over Verizon's recent finger pointing that blamed Netflix for poor streaming speeds on the ISP's network. Level 3, one of Netflix's Internet traffic carriers as well as one of the major 'Tier 1' networks that help serve as the backbone of the Internet, said Verizon's reasoning is nonsense and an "attempt at deception" that backfired.

In fact, Verizon is deliberately constraining capacity from network providers like Level 3, Mark Taylor, Level 3's vice president of content and media, said in a recent blog post.

The Internet: a quick explainer

Netflix's Internet traffic moves from company servers to a Verizon customer's home via so-called backbone Internet providers. These are large, global networks that connect services like Netflix to home and business networks run by companies like Comcast and Verizon.

verizon netflix chart

Verizon's recent graphic claiming that Netflix needed to buy more bandwidth to properly service Verizon customers. 

Just like a busy roadway there are physical places where traffic can bottleneck causing congestion across these networks. One such point, as demonstrated by Verizon's graphic above, is where a backbone network meets an ISP network.

Here comes the smack

That grey box titled "Los Angeles Border router" is where the problems are based on Verizon's diagram, which is only one example of many regional interconnection points between backbone networks and Verizon.

To hear Verizon tell it, the diagram shows that Netflix simply hasn't paid for enough bandwidth to move its traffic. As you can see Netflix's connections are maxed out (colored in red) while the rest of Verizon's network is wide open (colored in green).

Verizon says the problem is that Netflix needs to pay for more backbone providers on the open part of Verizon's network to deliver its services. But Level 3's Taylor says that's just not the case.


Level 3's counter-diagram to Verizon's.

Offering his own helpful diagram, Taylor gives us an inside view of Verizon's Los Angeles border router and how it connects to Level 3's. The diagram suggests those two routers have a potential eight wired connections; however, it's not clear if that is a specfic count or just a quick sketch.

Whatever the case, each of those lines represents a connection using 10 Gigabit-per-second cards capable of delivering enough traffic to service 5,000 or more streams each.

But, says Taylor, Verizon is not willing to maximize all the connection potential the two routers have. Taylor says Level 3 has been begging Verizon to create these new hardware connections for months and other ISPs usually do this in similar circumstances. "But Verizon has refused," Taylor said in his blog post. "So Verizon, not Level 3 or Netflix, causes the congestion."

Level 3's comments back-up Netflix's earlier statement that it was up to Verizon to upgrade its interconnection points with providers like Level 3.

Verizon was not available for comment at this writing, but we will update this story should the company respond.

Direct connection

While these three companies continue their blog spat over streaming speeds the problem is being remedied—at least for Netflix and Verizon. In April, the two companies agreed to an interconnection deal that would allow Netflix to connect directly to Verizon's network.

For now, however, Netflix subscribers using Verizon's network will have to suffer with poor connection speeds—a problem that could apparently be remedied by Verizon purchasing a few more 10Gbps cards and stringing some cable. If Taylor's claims are telling the full story, it seriously draws into question Verizon's stance that it is "working aggressively" to remedy the poor Netflix streaming speeds on its network.

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