Netflix Accounts For More Web Traffic Than Torrenting

Melanie Gross
May 20, 2011
Updated • Dec 2, 2012

Recent stats from the Sandvines Global internet Phenomenon report show that Netflix accounts for more web traffic in North America than bit torrents. While this is a good thing for Hollywood, it might backfire due to the ISPS recent trend to cap bandwidth in order to stop piracy.

The report shows that Netflix accounts for 29.7% of traffic in the US at peak times, and 22% throughout the whole day. Torrenting topped out at 21%, and this time the number is even down from what it was last fall. The report shows Netflix and streaming of audio and video in general to have increased 445 within the last year or so. People are starting to consume their media online instead of watching it on TV.

Hollywood should approve of this. These numbers mean that people are beginning to stream their videos instead of torrenting. Because, of course, we all know that the only reason for bit torrent’s existence is piracy, right? Well, not quite, but that’s what Holly wood as a whole seems to believe. The fact that Netflix is getting bigger and torrenting has taken even a slight downturn should be thrilling.

The numbers show a trend toward more online streaming. This gives ISPs an idea of what they have to look forward to in the future. People are going to want more and more bandwidth as the way they consume entertainment changes.
The problem with this whole thing is that ISPs, mostly due to the few people who do torrent on a regular basis, have begun putting in caps. In the states, even the major ISPS who arguably have lots of bandwidth to spare are debating putting in caps anywhere from 150-250 GB.

Even in Canada, where Netflix has been hugely successful since it arrived in September, some of the major DSL ISPs are debating bandwidth caps of 25 GB. If you’re streaming video, you could go through that in a day. Netflix has already had to lower the quality of its streaming in Canada to deal with the bandwidth caps. Canadian ISPs say that the current infrastructure just isn’t meant to handle the amount of internet traffic people are asking for, and that problem is only going to get worse.

Netflix is becoming a major source of internet traffic in the US and in Canada, at least. The big movie companies are thrilled with this, because it means that their seven year battle to get movies off of the torrent sites might actually be showing results. But, partially as a reaction to that battle, ISPs are now putting in caps to control how much bandwidth one user can get. I’m thinking this isn’t quite the outcome the Hollywood companies expected ...

What are your thoughts? Do you have bandwidth caps in place that make it difficult to do everything online that you would like? Do you watch a lot of online media? How much bandwidth do you think you use every month? What do you think would be a good solution for Netflix and the ISPs?


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  1. charliechan said on June 2, 2011 at 9:40 am

    It would be interesting to see the movie/tv industry to start subsidizing the cable and phone companies. if they want people to watch movies and shows at home then provide the bandwidth!

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