STREAMING GIANT NETFLIX is an established player in Ireland at this stage, but customer complaints regarding its speed on one network seem to be an ongoing cause for concern.
Slow Netflix speeds have been causing customers of Virgin Media (formerly UPC) a deal of consternation in recent times.
Last month, the company said that it was looking at fixing the situation where some of its customers were experiencing slow speeds for Netflix, or in some cases were unable to access the service at all.
The success of that particular operation seems to have been quite limited. While Virgin’s Netflix speeds were already fourth highest in Ireland in December, they’ve fallen a further two places to sixth in a speed chart for January 2016 compiled by Netflix itself.
This news inspires a number of questions – what is going on? Who is to blame? And is the issue going to be fixed?
The problem would seem to be more of an issue for Virgin Media than for Netflix itself. Customers of the streaming engine can simply switch to another internet service provider (ISP) if they aren’t happy with the service they’re getting, albeit they may have to pay to break their contract (more on that just below). Netflix appears to be working fine on other ISPs as can be seen from the speed chart above.
Virgin have announced over the last week a price increase for Irish broadband customers of €5. But, for all those who aren’t big fans of reading the small print, this increase comes with a caveat – you can change or cancel your package at any time before 9 March 2016.
One would imagine that’s the last thing Virgin would want – when they took over the brand from UPC last October, the plan was to become more customer-friendly, not the other way round.
There has been some discussion on certain Irish online forums recently as to the issue regarding Netflix on other European ISPs owned by Liberty Global (Virgin Media’s parent company). Using the Netflix speed-calculator, it can be seen that the issue of slow speeds is not confined to these shores – it can also be seen in Switzerland (UPC Cablecom), Austria (UPC), the Netherlands (Ziggo), and Germany (Unitymedia).
The exception to this trend is in the UK where Virgin rules the roost when it comes to Netflix speeds.
TheJournal.ie asked the two stakeholders, Virgin and Netflix, what the issue was, who’s to blame, and what’s going to be done about it.
Virgin told us that the recently announced price increase is for broadband customers only and that the flat increase of €5 is reflective of the fact that usage for broadband is increasing by 30% per annum and the “ongoing investment” necessary to satisfy that demand.
When we queried as to whether or not the option to cancel the contract before 9 March was having much of an effect on Virgin’s customer numbers, we weren’t given a direct answer.
“This is usually reported retrospectively from quarter to quarter and we don’t comment specifically on customer attrition except to say we are confident that our services remain the most competitive in Ireland,” a spokesman said.
The same spokesman also asserted that Virgin’s broadband is the fastest in Ireland at present – which does seem to be the case.
However, given the popularity of Netflix, Virgin’s broadband being extremely fast is of little relevance at present to customers whose primary use for their home connection is the streaming service.
We pressed a little further on the issue between Virgin and Netflix. The answer we got was:
“Our network is operating entirely as normal, with plenty of capacity available to deliver to our customers the quality of service that they expect and deserve.”
We are aware of Netflix having issues delivering their content into Europe and are working with them to resolve matters as quickly as we can.
It is not a problem we can resolve by ourselves.
This sounds a little like a shifting-of-blame scenario. So we put the same question to Netflix. Its answer was non-committal:
“We work with ISPs everywhere, including Ireland.”
We are happy to work with ISPs to facilitate delivery of Netflix traffic in an easy and efficient manner benefiting joint customers.
So, the reason for the dropping of streaming speeds on Virgin’s network still seems to be unresolved.
For the record, Ireland’s communications regulator ComReg has received no complaints regarding Netflix on Virgin Media. At present anyway.
So the issue may not be doing any damage to either company.
That may change if streaming speeds continue to fall however.