How Does Netflix Perform On Various ISPs?

IT Management

Share this Post

For fans of Netflix Instant, are you happy with the service? Is the stream watchable or are you faced with a pixelated picture that doesn't satisfy your desire to see "The Girl With/Who ..." trilogy? Considering the bandwidth hog Netflix has become, isn't it important to understand which Internet service providers handle these Netflix streams the best?

If so, you're in luck, thanks to a recent post at the Netflix Tech blog. The post details how Netflix Instant performs on the available ISPs in the United States, and the results are revealing. While all of the ISPs listed in Netflix's graphic clock in at over 1200 kilobytes per second, the difference between the top provider and the lower ones is substantial. Have a look at the graphic -- click for a larger size -- and see what you think:

Netflix Performance Chart

As you can see, the current top three are Charter, Comcast and CableOne, all of which come in at over 2000 KBS. In fact, the top eight ISPs are above the 2000 kilobyte plateau, including such notable providers like Time-Warner Cable and Verizon. Surprisingly, however, AT&T does not break the 2000 KBS threshold. Perhaps the new bandwidth caps have something to do with that; although, they didn't begin until May of 2011. Whatever the case, for such a prominent, international company, it's surprising to see AT&T in the lower tier.

As for the methodology used by Netflix to determine the chart, Ken Florance, Director of Content Delivery for Netflix, says:

As you can see, the familiar pattern persists, dividing cable networks on the high end from DSL networks in the lower bitrates. We're still showing the AT&T and Verizon networks’ performance as an average across their DSL and FTTx (Fiber) offerings. That's due to a limitation in how we collect data, which we will resolve soon, so you can expect the DSL and Fiber offerings of these ISPs to be represented separately in future updates.

Also of note, we've rolled Qwest under CenturyLink following the merger of those companies.

The current performance chart only focuses on the United States, because Canada has yet to resolve the bandwidth cap issue that encompasses the entire country. Furthermore, Florance directly addresses the issue with the following comment:

We're only publishing U.S. data this time. This data has become less significant for Canada in the wake of Netflix reducing default bitrates in Canada to help our Canadian members who are subject to low bandwidth caps.

While the idea of a capped Internet has been around for a little while, it's disappointing to see it in such black and white terms. As for these charts, Florance also revealed these will be updated on a quarterly basis, indicating the next chart will be available in August. It will be interesting to see where AT&T stands in relation to its competitors, especially if the T-Mobile merger goes through.