I ran into a problem with Netflix in mid-June – it opened fine, but refused to load videos and occasionally it did, but they were either extremely pixelated or completely froze within seconds. All I wanted to do was catch up on the latest available season of Supernatural for a few minutes before going to bed. (Laugh all you want, but it was decent through the first number of seasons and now that it’s up to season 12 and I’ve continued watching it, I may as well see it through til the end, whenever that may be.)
It was annoying, but nothing to start getting pissed about. But it lasted for a couple of weeks where I couldn’t access it and at that point I was annoyed enough that I opened a chat with Netflix. My kids hadn’t reported any problems (but they aren’t reliable indicators) and there weren’t widespread problems being reported on the internet when I was having issues. Regardless, my opening was terse to get Netflix’s attention, even though I wasn’t sure what was going on:
“Long time customer here (check my account). I haven’t been able to stream reliably for a couple weeks. It is not me; it is you. I say that with absolute certainty. A refund for this month would go a long way in avoiding me cancelling Netflix altogether.”
At first, I thought I started chatting with a bot, but that feeling changed mid-way through the conversation, as it seemed like more natural troubleshooting was taking place. The representative (“Oscar”) eventually took me to fast.com, which is Netflix’s own speed test, and I was getting 24 Kbps. That’s Kilobits per second, not Megabits per second. So that was the problem.
But that only raised more questions. I pay for 75Mbps/75Mbps and I had done a ton of third-party speed tests over the previous two weeks and all were in the 75/75 range and slightly higher in the 80s. I even did one before opening the chat with Netflix and did one immediately after I got the 24Kbps reading from Netflix.
My thoughts turned towards Verizon Fios and the possibility of them throttling Netflix bandwidth and this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard of that. I could go to amazon prime video or youtube and stream without issue, even while on the chat with Netflix. So, that seemed like the culprit. I told Oscar I would contact Verizon and he ended the chat with:
“Sounds like a plan! I can assure you that will definitely correct it. Have a great night! And one more thing, if you wouldn’t mind, please stay online for a one question survey.”
So the “I can assure you that will definitely correct it” statement made it seem as though Netflix had probably seen this problem before. I went to bed and figured I would call Fios the next time I went to watch Netflix.
So, of course, the next time I went to watch Netflix, it streamed without issue and fast.com tested in the 80s. This was after two straight weeks of not being able to watch Netflix. The next evening was the same. This pointed the finger back at Netflix. Had Oscar put in a ticket to fix me later knowing that the problem was on their end but put the blame on Fios?
That wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened to me. Back in 2003, I worked for the slimiest company in my career and I had an issue with a particular server and I believed it had somehow dropped out of DNS, as I could access it via IP without issue. Since an app needed to access it via server name, I called the corporate HQ help desk. I explained the situation and I heard the guy perform a few mouse clicks, type a few things on a keyboard and then say “There’s nothing wrong. Can you check again?” His voice was accusatory like I was a moron. Except I already knew it was fixed because I had a ping -t going and saw it start resolving as soon as the keyboard clicks ended.
Then on the third night post-chat, the issue was back and I was testing at 14 Kbps on fast.com, 80 Mbps everywhere else. So I pulled out my phone, went to fast.com and it tested at 80 Mbps. Went back to my Surface Book, tested it and It tested at 14 Kbps again. So what the fuck is going on? I bounced my Surface Book and all of the sudden it was testing at 80 Mbps on fast.com and streamed Netflix without issue.
So rebooting the Surface Book did the trick, but that doesn’t explain anything. I turn my Surface Book off during the day and at the times I had gone to access Netflix, it had only been on for a couple of hours with minimal usage. The Surface Book wireless network, even though I had not had a problem with it, was one of the original major issues with the Surface Book as it was apparently a crapfest of random shit happening until the problems were largely resolved with driver updates in April, 2016, just before I got my Surface Book. Is that the issue and why did it crop up now? A clue may be the fact that my Surface Book received its security updates (but no driver updates) on June 13, which seems very close to when the problems started.
So at the time of this writing, Netflix continues to have problems, I suppose Fios could be throttling me, my Surface Book is probably a factor in this, and Windows updates may be playing a role. But why would the problems only be with Netflix? I may be cancelling my Netflix subscription. If I happen to figure out that it’s not them, I’ll provide an update at that time.