Is Verizon Evil, or Is Netflix Too Good?

Watching Netflix on Verizon DSL is getting worse, but it may not be Verizon's fault.

Feb 12, 2014 at 11:09AM

Ever since Verizon (NYSE:VZ) emerged victorious in the legal tussle over net neutrality, everyone's been waiting for the battle to end all battles. Will Verizon throttle its bandwidth, lowering connectivity speeds to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and other data-heavy sites? 

It hasn't happened yet, but it's certainly starting to seem that way.

Netflix has spent the past few months trying to get ahead of the situation by sharing information on access. Every month, it updates its list of connection speeds of the country's 17 largest Internet service providers, or ISPs. The method to Netflix's madness is clear: By peeling back the curtain, Netflix could potentially expose any providers that are cheating their subscribers out of optimal access to the world's leading streaming video service. Let's call it ISP shaming.

Verizon's traditional DSL service -- not its faster FiOS platform -- was dead last in January. However, this isn't about trailing the 16 other leading ISPs. Someone has to be last, of course. The problem is that the quality is deteriorating. Ever since September, the average speed that Netflix viewers are experiencing through Verizon has diminished with every passing month according to Netflix's report.

Win-win has become lose-lose
Netflix's stance has always been that, even though access providers can now throttle Netflix, they are unlikely to do so. It's just bad business. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explained in last month's earnings call:

ISPs have a very profitable business and they want to expand that business. Part of delivering and expanding for consumers is having a good Netflix experience, a good YouTube experience, things like that. That's why people get higher speed broadband. And so I think actually our economic interests are pretty co-aligned which is how it's worked so far.

Netflix has gone as far as rolling out its Open Connect content delivery platform, so ISPs aren't as bogged down by the gargantuan chunks of data going out every night to Netflix customers. Some have embraced Netflix's offer for direct access to its growing digital vault at its eight independent facilities operated at Internet peering points. Verizon has been one of the holdouts, and that may be costing it now that Netflix is not only growing in popularity but starting to serve up enhanced viewing options that can be real data hogs. After all, it's probably not a coincidence that streaming has started to slow down -- and not just on Verizon's pipes -- since Netflix started making "Super HD" and 3-D video available from any ISP in September. That's when Verizon DSL speeds started to head south... and it's not alone.

The streams and the stream-nots
Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSK) is another ISP giant that has not embraced Open Connect, and Netflix customers on Comcast's Xfinity are paying the price. According to Netflix, Comcast's average speed has gone from 2.11 Mbps in September to 1.51 Mbps last month.

The three fastest ISPs on Netflix's report -- Google Fiber, Cablevision Optimum, and Cox -- have all seen their speeds increase in that time, so clearly there's a divide.

Netflix is now serving 2 billion hours of content a month. It has more than 44 million domestic subscribers to its market-leading streaming service. As it becomes a more critical part of bandwidth consumption, it wouldn't be a surprise to see more members switch ISPs to those that are living up to their end of the bargain. However, this doesn't mean that Verizon, or even Comcast, is evil. Netflix is serving up more traffic through its growing popularity and the fatter files that it's pushing out. 

Nobody's innocent here and, unfortunately, some customers are paying the price.

Look for spare ammo between your sofa's seat cushions
You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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