So everyone's talking about this new Spring 2011 Global Internet Phenomena Report from Sandvine—a self-described "leading provider of intelligent broadband network solutions for fixed and mobile operators." The big, gaudy stat everyone's running in their headline is that Netflix makes up 30% of U.S. Internet traffic during peak hours. It's easy to see why everyone's buzzing about it… it's impressive.

For a company with 23 million subscribers, that's a whole lot of traffic, and likely more than most casual observers would have guessed. And the first thing I can't help but think is: no wonder YouTube wants to increase its content library. No wonder they want to get viewers sticking around for more than two minutes at a time.

YouTube may be able to brag about its 2 billion video views per day (which, of course, constitutes more than just U.S. audience behavior), but most of its clips are somewhere between short… and super short. Along comes Netflix, with its 2-hour movies and hour-long television dramas, and even though they have a much smaller total user base, they come out on top for total Internet download traffic.

But it's not like YouTube is going to be crying after reading this report. There is a huge audience for video, and the Sandvine report merely proves it:

The Growth Of Netflix Will Be Used To Throttle Your Internet Access netflixchart

Most media outlets, like the Washington Post, have immediately made the connection to the recent push by ISPs toward metered Internet access. Not only is Sandvine's customer base made up of cable and mobile companies, but the report specifically forecasts a continued increase in "real-time entertainment" (video) traffic. Here's a chart looking at the breakdown of content behavior over the past few years--notice the growth in real-time entertainment:

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The Growth Of Netflix Will Be Used To Throttle Your Internet Access netflixchart2 600x463

Just last year, Netflix made up 20% of U.S. traffic during peak hours. This year it's up to 30%. And Sandvine says all "real-time entertainment sites" put together could account for as much as 60% of traffic.

Translation: People are watching and downloading more video than ever. And that trend is only going to continue. The hidden message is: cable companies now have their best argument ever for making metered Internet access the standard because they're serving more bandwidth than ever. Some people might even go so far as to say the report is a little biased—I'm not one of them, but those skeptics will be out there.

Report or no report… we knew this was coming. Let's not act surprised that the march toward throttled Internet access continues. In fact, many of you live in areas where the cable provider is already metering your usage—like I do. I've yet to use too much bandwidth in one month and get hit with a penalty, but I've also only recently subscribed to Netflix. I wonder how much of a spike that will cause in my own household's download traffic? I guess I'll find out when my bill arrives.

  • Tim Schmoyer

    I'm wondering how fair this chart is in terms of how most people are using the Internet because it doesn't take a lot of online video viewers to dominate Internet traffic. One viewer streaming a video would equal thousands and thousands of people viewing a webpage to get the same amount of data transfer.

  • Sabin Horic

    btw, the BEST way to fix congestion issues is to invest in increasing the infrastructure (add more fiber), NOT metering the internet. This has proven to work more efficiently and has been accepted as the ideal solution worldwide.

    Why do you even think we, in north america, have congestion issues? Because we use the internet too much? Because we watch too much videos? I mean come on. Internet consumption is only going to increase with time. Metering the internet, despite what isps tell you, DOESN'T fix congestion. If you force people to drive more slowly on the roads, you may STILL get stuck in traffic. But if you add more alternate roads, less traffic and therefore less congestion.

    The ONLY reason some isps complain of congestion is because they haven't (for being cheap despite the fact that the cost went down big time or for whatever reason) invested in more infrastructure for many years. But they won't tell you that, nor show you proof since they don't have to. Instead, they can make you believe it and price gouge you for it.

  • Sabin Horic

    As someone once said:

    "Sandvine sells equipment to slow down the internet. They have every
    interest in showing how current traffic patterns will cost incumbents
    lots of money unless they buy Sandvine gear.

    They are not exactly neutral in the net neutrality debate."