The Growth Of Netflix Will Be Used To Throttle Your Internet Access

The Growth Of Netflix Will Be Used To Throttle Your Internet Access

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So everyone’s talking about this new Spring 2011 Global Internet Phenomena Report from Sandvine—a self-described “leading provider of intelligent broadband network solutions for fixed and mobile operators.” The big, gaudy stat everyone’s running in their headline is that Netflix makes up 30% of U.S. Internet traffic during peak hours. It’s easy to see why everyone’s buzzing about it… it’s impressive.

For a company with 23 million subscribers, that’s a whole lot of traffic, and likely more than most casual observers would have guessed. And the first thing I can’t help but think is: no wonder YouTube wants to increase its content library. No wonder they want to get viewers sticking around for more than two minutes at a time.

YouTube may be able to brag about its 2 billion video views per day (which, of course, constitutes more than just U.S. audience behavior), but most of its clips are somewhere between short… and super short. Along comes Netflix, with its 2-hour movies and hour-long television dramas, and even though they have a much smaller total user base, they come out on top for total Internet download traffic.

But it’s not like YouTube is going to be crying after reading this report. There is a huge audience for video, and the Sandvine report merely proves it:

Most media outlets, like the Washington Post, have immediately made the connection to the recent push by ISPs toward metered Internet access. Not only is Sandvine’s customer base made up of cable and mobile companies, but the report specifically forecasts a continued increase in “real-time entertainment” (video) traffic. Here’s a chart looking at the breakdown of content behavior over the past few years–notice the growth in real-time entertainment:

Just last year, Netflix made up 20% of U.S. traffic during peak hours. This year it’s up to 30%. And Sandvine says all “real-time entertainment sites” put together could account for as much as 60% of traffic.

Translation: People are watching and downloading more video than ever. And that trend is only going to continue. The hidden message is: cable companies now have their best argument ever for making metered Internet access the standard because they’re serving more bandwidth than ever. Some people might even go so far as to say the report is a little biased—I’m not one of them, but those skeptics will be out there.

Report or no report… we knew this was coming. Let’s not act surprised that the march toward throttled Internet access continues. In fact, many of you live in areas where the cable provider is already metering your usage—like I do. I’ve yet to use too much bandwidth in one month and get hit with a penalty, but I’ve also only recently subscribed to Netflix. I wonder how much of a spike that will cause in my own household’s download traffic? I guess I’ll find out when my bill arrives.


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