Cable Still Tops DSL, U-verse for Streaming Video: Netflix

Major U.S. cable operators provided faster average connection speeds in November for Netflix streaming users than telco DSL services -- including AT&T’s U-verse -- while Netflix said the embryonic Google Fiber service took the No. 1 spot overall.

Netflix has more than 25 million U.S. streaming subscribers, so "we have very reliable data for consumers to compare ISPs in terms of real-world performance," Netflix vice president of content delivery Ken Florance wrote in a blog post announcing the rankings.

Google Fiber, which only last month became officially available to residents in two Kansas City, Kan., neighborhoods, delivered an average 2.55 Megabits per second for Netflix streaming users for the month of November, according to Netflix.

Given that only a relatively small number of Google Fiber users could have been counted in the Netflix rankings, it isn’t clear whether Netflix’s findings for the 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home service are statistically comparable to the other ISPs it measured. Netflix spokesman Joris Evers declined to disclose how many subscribers the company used to calculate the rankings for each ISP.

The other top performers on Netflix’s rankings were Verizon Communications’ FiOS Internet service at 2.19 Mbps and Comcast and Charter Communications, both with 2.17 Mbps. Six MSOs turned in averages of between 2.06 and 2.15 Mbps, including Cablevision Systems, Mediacom Communications, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cox Communications and Suddenlink Communications.

Clustered between 1.49 Mbps and 1.94 Mbps were five DSL services, including AT&T’s U-verse, CenturyLink, Windstream Communications, Frontier Communications, AT&T DSL and Verizon DSL.

"Broadly, cable shows better than DSL," Florance noted.

Meanwhile, Clearwire delivered an average 1.18 Mbps for Netflix subs in November, followed by Verizon Wireless (760 Kbps), T-Mobile (640 Kbps), Sprint (560 Kbps) and AT&T wireless (480 Kbps).

Netflix first published ISP rankings in January 2011 to call attention to which ISPs are best able to deliver its streaming-video service. On that list, large MSOs -- led by Charter -- delivered the best performance among the providers Netflix analyzed.

According to Florance, starting this month Netflix plans to release monthly rankings of major ISPs based on their actual performance across all users’ streams. 

The average performance that Netflix measured for each ISP “is well below the peak performance due to a variety of factors,” Florance said, including home Wi-Fi, a variety of devices and a variety of encodes.