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Wi-Fi and the Netflix Effect

Streaming video is destroying our networks. Or so the common wisdom goes, at least. IT departments around the world claim that the real reason why networks are running so slowly is because users are hopping on the Wi-Fi to watch Netflix and other streaming services. But are we really causing that many problems when we catch up on the latest episode of our favorite show?

Jim Palmer wanted to find out. And as someone who formerly operated a huge wireless network he knows exactly how to test this. In a very exhaustive post, he downloaded movies on Netflix and then started rate limiting the clients to find out if the common solution of restricting bandwidth was helping them solve the issue or if it was causing more problems. Jim found that, in almost every case, having a high ceiling on your rate limit was a better option than starving your users attempts to pull down streaming media. Having a bigger limit meant that clients spent less time talking to each other and the downloads completed faster, which means getting the client off the air and ready for people to transmit again.

Jim had some great thoughts like this in the post:

See, what is of the most importance in all of these graphs isn’t the blueish parts showing data being consumed, it’s the white spaces in between!  Those white spaces represent time, and even with all of our knowledge and expertise, the one factor that we haven’t been able to manipulate yet is time.  Preserving time, our most precious resource that the FCC can’t grant us more of, should be of the highest priority.  People sitting in these locations (hospitals, bus stations, airports, hotels, underground caves) are always going to want the resource (video content) no matter what we do as administrators to limit that.

Read more of Jim’s thorough post at Wi-Fi and the Netflix Effect

About the author

Tom Hollingsworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a networking professional, blogger, and speaker on advanced technology topics. He is also an organizer for networking and wireless for Tech Field Day.  His blog can be found at

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