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Like many Netflix customers, I have become more and more frustrated with the connection problems when trying to use their movie streaming service, something they euphemistically call “Watch Instantly.

Here’s a how Sky Van Buren, a writer for Men At Home, describes his Netflix experience:

What swell folks at Netflix!

Out of the goodness of their little hearts — and perhaps to stave off competitor services like those from iTunes — some months ago they started offering subscribers “free” movie video streaming that they call “Watch Instantly.”

For the first few months, it was a neat little service. Don’t have time to wait for another movie to arrive in the mail? Too tired to do anything else and decide at the last minute to watch a movie? “Watch Instantly” to the rescue!

Sure, the selections weren’t always the most current, but the library was deep enough to keep even a movie buff like me at my computer screen.

Overwhelmed by their own success, Netflix’s servers are now overwhelmed. “Watch Instantly” used to mean “instantly,” i.e. the server checked your video connection and the movie started. Simple!

Not anymore. I’ve been keeping count. During the past three weeks I have tried to start a movie 178 times — often the same movie to see if I could get it to start streaming. ONLY ONCE in 178 tries did the movie start streaming the first time I tapped on that little blue “play” button. Wait times have ranged from four hours up to 6 days. In the screen capture above, it says I will have to wait 48 minutes before my selected movie starts to play. By then, I will have slashed my wrists, made obscene phone calls to former girlfriends, and probably write this blog.

And it’s gotten worse. Customers used to be able to reset that play button until they caught the Netflix server at the right moment and the movie started. It was a little like playing the lottery. Sometimes you won, usually you lost. But now Netflix has caught on to this little game and changed the rules. Try to reload the movie and you will get an error message that says you have two movies running, which is against Netflix policies. The only way out of this dead end is to close all your browsers and start over.

Keep in mind that a few weeks ago I went through an entire series of diagnostic routines with my PC and with my cable provider that proved beyond a doubt that my Internet connection was indeed fast enough — I run a top-of-the-line system here! The problem is clearly at the Netflix end.

Netflix used to be fun. When I slashed my cable TV connection, Netflix gave me access to great movies at a reasonable price. Now they are one of the scourges of my little world. Like one of Skinner’s rats, each time a movie fails to start, that’s one more shock to my furry head saying, “Don’t bother!” And I am beginning to think I won’t.

Netflix 1, Customers 0.

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