Internet speed is a subject that is near and dear to our hearts. It matters because we build websites, and we want every user to have the best experience possible. It also matters because we work hard, and we deserve to marathon those episodes Dawn of the Croods, darnit! So why is this thing still buffering?
Netflix, as one of the primary sources of video content on the Internet, has been engaged in protracted battles with telecom providers, who sometimes have different ideas about the definitions of words like “Internet”, “speed”, and “quality service”. Well, it takes all sorts, right?
The problem is that many telecom customers aren’t getting the sorts of speeds they were promised, and they often don’t have that many options. Netflix wants to deliver their content as fast as possible, as we all do, so they’ve created their very own Internet speed testing tool, so users can see what their actual Internet speed is.
It’s located at the very appropriately-named fast.com.
Now, it’s not super feature-packed. It only measures download speed, which is obviously the most important factor for Netflix, and indeed for most of us. The most important feature, however, is that it’s not in any way ad-supported or affiliated with any telecom provider. Netflix believes that any connection or dependence on advertising could affect the quality of the results.
This is, perhaps, a bit cynical, but I can hardly blame them. It’s no secret that companies like Comcast and Time-Warner have been trying to limit the access that competitors have to their own customers. It’s also no secret that speed testers provided by the telecoms themselves are known to be inaccurate.
Put in that context, it looks like this tool isn’t just a handy little gadget for ISP customers. It’s a calculated move designed to put pressure on telecom companies. On a personal level, I applaud their intent. In the bigger picture, however, the actual impact of this move remains to be seen.
Mind you, this move only works if users aren’t getting the speeds they’re paying for. I found out that I’m getting 11-12 Mbps more than I’m paying for, so I’m feeling pretty happy about this whole thing.
Go test your own Internet speed on fast.com.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user vavva_92.