July 15, 2014, 6:02 AM —
A few years ago I moved from New England to North Carolina. Milder winters, lower cost of living, nice people...what's not to love, right? Well there was one thing. I had to drop Verizon FiOS and switch to Time Warner Cable.
I've been griping about Time Warner Cable and singing the praises of FiOS since, but I think it's time I shut my mouth. Why? Well after a few service appointments our Time Warner Cable Internet has gotten a lot more reliable for one thing. It's almost random, this effort to get your cable working right. Over about 18 months I got fed enough to call TWC for service 3 times. One technician swore he'd fixed the problem but hadn't. A second told me to talk to my landlord about getting the complex re-wired, as if that was ever going to happen. (I live in an apartment complex.) The third guy came in, pulled the jacks out of the wall, snorted in disgust and replaced them. Service has been reliable ever since (knock on wood).
And then there's Netflix. We watch a lot of Netflix in our house, particularly during the summer re-run season. We've had few issues with Netflix since that last TWC technician fixed us up. At the same time I've been watching Netflix's monthly ISP Speed Index posts, and FiOS's performance is really tanking.
In November 2012 (the earliest data Netflix provides) Verizon FiOS was ranked #1 in the US speed index with an average speed of 2.19 Mbps. Time Warner Cable was ranked #6 with an average speed of 2.12 Mbps.
By June 2013 Verizon FiOS had dropped in rank to #5 with an average speed of 2.15 Mbps. TWC was #7 with an average speed of 2.05.
Last month, June 2014, shows FiOS dropping all the way down to #12 with an average speed of 1.58 Mbps. There are 3 DSL providers that are faster than the FiOS fiber optic network! TWC was #6 with an average speed of 2.14 Mbps.
Of course Netflix isn't everything and I'm sure FiOS is plenty fast for other uses (and one of the things I really miss about it are the upload speeds which are as fast as the download speeds) but this falling Netflix speed, as far as I can tell, isn't a technology problem; it's a result of (pardon the expression) a pissing match between Netflix and Verizon.
I don't know which company is to blame; both are pointing fingers at the other guy. I just know the customers are getting screwed. This downward trend has continued even after Netflix agreed to "a paid interconnect agreement" with Verizon in April. (Ars Technica has a good post about that deal.) Back in February when Netflix reached a similar deal with Comcast speeds increased fairly dramatically (chart covers Feb-June 2014):
Here's the same chart showing FiOS performance over the same time period. You can see that things were actually improving until the deal in April after which things take a drastic turn for the worse:
Last month CNN Money reported that the FCC was going to get involved to sort the mess out. You would think it wouldn't come to that; you'd think the two companies would stop squabbling like angry children and work together to keep customers happen. Apparently that's asking too much of them.
So anyway, I'm going to quit griping about Time Warner Cable and send my sympathies out to my FiOS-using friends who're trying to watch House of Cards and Orange is the New Black and instead are just watching the Netflix buffering indicator. Not that TWC is totally off the hook; these Internet providers all need to do better. The USA is starting to look like a 3rd world country in terms of Internet connectivity, and it's a disgrace. We need more competition. If the providers actually had to compete for our business I daresay they'd be more concerned with our experience using their services.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.