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What happens to streaming video if my internet connection doesn’t meet the requirements?


In trying to reduce the monthly amount I pay for broadcast TV, I’m looking
at getting a Roku streaming device with a subscription to Netflix. I have DSL,
but tested my speed and my download is 1.32 megabits per second and upload is .32
megabits per second. I’m in a small town and that isn’t likely to get upgraded
any time soon. I’m told that I need at least 3 megabits for live sports and 5
megabits for HD viewing. What is the consequence of being a little short? My
only other option is U-verse and that puts me back in the money again.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #52
, I look at the possibilities of streaming high-definition TV
through an internet connection without the recommended connection speed.

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Download requirements

You’re more than a little bit short. Clearly, you’re less than half the
minimum requirements for live sports. Unfortunately, exactly what it means will
depend on the technology that’s being used by the various streaming services
that you’re talking about.

Several different things could happen.

Poor quality

One is you could get a very poor quality picture, but it would be

In other words, the speed (the low speed) would get detected by the remote
service and they would send what will end up being a rather fuzzy or
blocky picture. But other than that, everything would probably still work.

They would probably also send you a lower quality audio, but it really is
the video that takes up the most bandwidth.

Starts and stops

What’s really more likely to happen is that you are going to experience a
very choppy start-and-stop kind of video.

What that means is that the software on your machine (the streaming
software) will download as much as it can; it will fill up the buffer, display
the buffer, but it will actually empty the buffer faster than it can
get more data to keep the streaming continuous.

So it will play what it can, then it will stop. It will get some more. It
will play that, then it will stop. You’ve probably already seen this viewing
videos on other sites.

Pause to buffer

This kind of choppy video sometimes can be worked around by simply pausing
the player, so that it buffers up more than what it needs to play

In reality, what I’ve seen is – most of these streaming players don’t really
buffer very well. They don’t handle the pause thing all that well. Even YouTube
seems to be taking some action that actually makes pausing not that
effective anymore for buffering up – buffering ahead what you might want to be
able to see without interruption.

So, those are the two kinds of things that could happen.

The other thing that could happen of course is that the system might very
well detect that you’re connection is simply too slow and just flat out refuse
to play.

Not enough speed

Unfortunately, I don’t really have a good solution for you. That 1.32
megabits unfortunately these days for streaming media is pretty slow.

I have three megabits here and as long as my other computers aren’t doing
anything, I can watch a standard definition television show streamed (from
Amazon, in my case) without any problem. But if I switch to high definition, I
end up with the starts and stops – the buffering, the pauses, and so forth.

So, even I don’t have a fast enough connection to do full HD, there really
isn’t a way around that.

The only thing that I can suggest is perhaps playing with some of the
services to find out if they handle the pause buffering properly. If they do,
and that’s an acceptable solution to you, maybe that’s a way to go.

Physical media

The other approach is decidedly low-tech, but what I have for Netflix is
the old DVD subscription. They send me a DVD and I watch the DVD and I send it
back. I have one of those out a time and I probably go through about eight of
those a month.

That is completely independent of your internet connection. It doesn’t use
your internet connection at all. But it does allow you to watch some of the
things that Netflix specifically has available, without being bound to the
speed of your internet connection.

So, unfortunately, I don’t really have any good answers for you. The bottom
line is that it probably isn’t going to work very well. Sorry about

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1 thought on “What happens to streaming video if my internet connection doesn’t meet the requirements?”

  1. Mr. Leo!
    Thank You Very Much for that Post!
    You just Confirmed what I thought for a long while.

    I see that you are just like me in terms of having slow internet speed as I just knew you had one those Ultra-Fast speed connections in view of the expertise you have in all things computer and Internet.

    I have a 1.5 megabits per second download internet speed and was wondering how I could increase my internet speed using one of those streaming boxes.
    Other than using DVD’s to look at movies the only other alternative I have is to Upgrade my ISP service which I cannot at the moment as I am on a fixed monthly income.

    You are a wonderful guy for the time you put in to give us FREE and Valuable information on the things that mean a lot to us computer techies!
    You break down everything that Newbies and others can understand in Plain English.


    Brooklyn, New York USA


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