If you’ve ever ever felt like pulling out your hair, chucking your computer and going postal over near-constant YouTube buffering, you’re not alone. To add to that rage, here’s a piece of trivia for you: lagging YouTube videos don’t occur simply because your connection is slow, according to Ars Technica.
The problem isn’t that you’re not paying enough for high-speed internet — well, it might be if you’re still using dial up, but I digress — molasses-slow YouTube videos, in part, are caused by back alley dealings between the internet’s largest service providers.
“Peering” — a term used to describe the passing of traffic between ISPs — and disputes over video caching, a service that stores videos close to people’s homes in order to speed up loading time, are the primary causes of the peak hour buffering phenomenon. When ISPs cannot come to a deal or refuse to cooperate with “peering” negotiations, video load times suffer.
Notably, Ars Technica cites an example in which Netflix offered Time Warner a free caching service that would improve video streaming times. However, Time Warner turned down the offer earlier this year, which would explain why that episode of “Mad Men” you started last week is still loading.
If ISPs refuse to play ball for any number of reasons, connection speeds suffer and, in some case, have been severed entirely. Reggie Forster, director of network engineering at XO Communications told Ars, however, that, “They tend to want to keep that quiet.”
Understanding how ISPs connect with one another can get complicated quickly, so here is an abridged version: there are several internet companies that have connections reaching all across the web; these companies are called “tier 1.” These tier 1 providers pay each other to connect to various parts of the world as do non-tier 1 companies like Netflix and YouTube.
For many providers, the simple sharing of networks and data is payment enough — a give and take that shouldn’t require any financial commitments. Unfortunately, most big ISPs don’t see it this way and require payment from anyone using their networks, even if they are “peering.”
Problems arise once providers refuse to upgrade ports that have become clogged. This refusal to upgrade is often used as a bargaining technique meant to put the fire under certain companies in the form of their users’ complaints.
Next time your YouTube video is loading slow or failing to load altogether, just remember it’s because multi-billion dollar companies like Verizon are arguing over around $10,000. Awesome, right?
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