Netflix and Comcast Peering Problems: Can a VPN Help?
The FCC is proposing new actions that could change the Internet forever, based on peering problems between demanding content providers like Netflix and ISPs, principally Comcast, in this case. These new actions would allow broadband providers to charge content providers for faster service over their networks. Essentially, high-bandwidth services like Netflix would have to pay more to ISPs to guarantee quality speed to their customers. If they don’t, their customers deal with buffering, low-quality video and other problems.
Golden Frog put out information that shows that the speeds that Netflix customers are getting when they stream videos have come down over the past year on several of the major carriers, Verizon DSL being the most significant failure in delivering content at a high-quality speed.
The ISPs want to charge companies for guaranteed bandwidth delivery, which means that those services that cannot afford to pay for it could be bereft of a way to compete with wealthy companies like Netflix. What’s more, the ISPs could pass the costs along to their subscribers, or the streaming services could do that themselves. To many, this seems like a very cynically engineered way to soak consumers for more money for substandard Internet service.
You do have a tool to avoid this if you have a VPN.
Yes, a VPN Can Help
First, the VPN encrypts your Internet traffic. Your ISP may be targeting streaming services and reducing the bandwidth that they’re allotted, ruining your viewing experience. With a VPN, your ISP cannot see that you’re streaming video and, therefore, cannot target your traffic with this type of policy. You’re free to watch whatever you want at the speed you were promised, traffic speed manipulation schemes notwithstanding.
Second, you can avoid having your traffic bounce through an inefficient collection of networks on the way to its destination. If your streaming server is located in LA, for instance, you can connect to an LA VPN server over your service. This means that you’re going straight to LA, not to LA via a bunch of unnecessary and time-consuming hops. The result is less buffering and higher quality video.
If you want to voice your dissent to what the ISPs are trying to do to fundamentally change the Internet, you can do so here, courtesy of the EFF. If you don’t have one, this is one more reason to get a VPN.