Posted May 14, 2014 6:05 pm by with 3 comments

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mNQzNTA-tacula-rgbstckThe information super highway is getting crowded. During peak periods, it can be tough to maintain any kind of speed but we’re all trying – from out desktop computers, our smartphones, our tablets, internet TVs and gaming consoles. We’re shopping, reading emails, browsing the web – but more than anything, we’re streaming real-time entertainment content.

Almost 64% of all North American downstream internet traffic during peak hours is about streaming media and of that Netflix is king. According to a new report by Sandvine Global, Netflix is responsible for 34% of downstream peak traffic.

Many of these users are “cord cutters” – folks who watch TV and movies via the internet versus on a traditional TV. These guys are major road hogs.

  • They consume on average 212GB a month, more than seven times the 29GB of a typical subscriber
  • They view  the equivalent of 100 hours of video each month
  • They account for the majority (54%) of total monthly network traffic

Netflix’s share is so big and so important to the company, they even agreed to pay additional fees for upgrades and direct access to customers via a couple of cable companies who were undoubtedly unhappy about the amount of data being used by streaming fans.

But it’s not just Netflix looking for love in the fast lane. YouTube is buzzing along, too, while Amazon Video and Hulu remain stuck behind a long line of red taillights.

Sandvine peak period

If you’re stuck in traffic, you might turn to your smartphone for comfort. Facebook rules for upstream mobile traffic with Instagram coming in 5th. Snapchat didn’t make the top ten list of most used mobile apps, but it takes the top traffic prize for third-party messaging. On one network, the visual messaging app was responsible for 12% of the total traffic generated on New Year’s Eve. Wow.

If you’re not a millennial male, you may not know about Twitch.TV but this live streaming service is creating a fast lane all its own, generating more traffic than HBO Go on US networks. Instead of watching TV online, you watch people playing online games. It may sound strange but people have been watching other people play games on TV for fifty years – it’s called a game show. And they may have fallen out of favor on television but the concept is booming on the web.

Want to know what else is happening in the world of internet traffic? Sandvine Global has a 34 page report that they’ll happily share with you for the low, low price of your contact info.



  • “…who were undoubtedly unhappy about the amount of data being used by streaming fans.”

    No, that wasn’t the problem. The problem lies with providing equal quality of service for small sites that have to share the “backroom bandwidth” with the big sites like Netflix. So the fact that Netflix users were engorging a lot of user-facing bandwidth really wasn’t the problem. The ISPs always had the option of switching users to alternative plans to cover that amount of access (and over the past few months Comcast has been experimenting with segmented plans for consumers that are easier on the wallet for most).

    What people don’t understand is that there is only so much bandwidth on the main trunk lines running between the major services like Google and Netflix and the Internet Service Providers. Those trunk lines carry traffic for all sites, big and small, and once the bandwidth is choked up it’s choked up.

    The ISPs can cache the content locally (and some do) to ease the burden of transferring so much data from provider to consumer (especially duplicate data) but small sites that are not accessed as often as large sites are less likely to be cached.

    Hence, for the consumer the connections to small sites tend to be slower than the connections to large sites. For the small sites there are fewer users than they would have if the large sites were not hogging up all the trunk bandwidth.

    Hence, building “fast lane” trunk lines was always a necessity but companies like Google and Amazon and Netflix have balked at paying for these trunk lines. They want the ISP customers to pay for them, even when those customers don’t use their services. That is completely unfair to consumers and that is why Net Neutrality has always been and will always remain a complete and total lie.

    • cynthialil

      Michael, I appreciate the detailed response, but I believe we’re actually in agreement. Internet providers have to find a way to keep everyone happy from the guy who is playing an online game 24-7 to the guy who just wants to check his email once a week. That’s a tough place to be.

      Netflix, Amazon, etc have their own balancing act – providing excellent service without raising prices. Netflix’s recent small hike made the news with such force, I thought they were tripling their rates. I’ve been a streaming Netflix user for awhile and the service is three times better than it was when it started so I’m not complaining about paying more but people will.

      • I’m not even convinced there ARE “fast lanes” (when this all started a few years ago, everyone was talking about FUTURE infrastructure). What i suspect is happening is that the ISPs are charging the big providers for guaranteed percentages of existing bandwidth, probably metered in some way.

        In theory they should apply that money toward building more trunk lines but meanwhile the big providers don’t have to worry about their content lagging due to routing conflicts with other sites’ traffic. It reminds me of how a business can buy a T1 or OS3 line to ACCESS the Internet (or maybe it IS essentially that — no one in the media has said what these fast lanes look like).

        The ISPs have been raising their access fees for all consumers. That’s got to stop, somehow. I don’t care how that is achieved as long as it’s done fairly.