Slow Netflix streaming taking toll on students

Psychology senior Mitchell Belanger is an avid Netflix user, streaming television shows and movies "pretty much every day" since he arrived at college.

Occasionally there'd be disruptions, network issues in the dorms halting his stream. It was a problem Belanger thought he was leaving behind when he moved off campus.

"Now we're at an apartment complex with Comcast and (buffering) shouldn't be an issue, but it's been a more frequent issue — buffering, stopping in the middle of your episode, and then buffering, and then starting and then buffering again," Belanger said. "It could be my network or it could be Netflix, I don't know."

But Belanger is not alone in that uncertainty.

Over the past few weeks Netflix and Verizon have been placing the blame on one another for the buffering issues that occasionally arise when watching Netflix videos on Verizon's Internet service.

These disputes, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said, have highlighted an issue that is causing consumers dissatisfaction with service and confusion at who is to blame.

Wheeler announced Friday that the commission is launching an investigation into how agreements between Internet service providers, such as Verizon, and content providers, such as Netflix, are impacting content quality and what regulatory actions should be taken.

“To be clear, what we are doing right now is collecting information, not regulating," Wheeler said in a statement. "We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I."

“The bottom line is that consumers need to understand what is occurring when the Internet service they’ve paid for does not adequately deliver the content they desire, especially content they’ve also paid for," he said.

Free Press Senior Strategy Director Timothy Karr said the agreements Wheeler is referring to are deals where, reportedly, an Internet service provider will prioritize certain content providers for a fee.

"There's been a lot of questions whether these types of access arrangements violate the letter and the spirit of net neutrality, which is the (principle) that prevents Internet service providers from striking access fee arrangements," Carr said.

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