Cable Operators

Netflix: FiOS Internet Is Actually Best For Streaming

10/14/2011 1:36 PM Eastern

Netflix has re-run the numbers comparing video-streaming performance across 13 U.S. broadband providers -- breaking out Verizon and AT&T's fiber-based services from DSL -- and found that FiOS Internet clearly beats cable.

Verizon's FiOS Internet delivered 2.5 Megabits per second over a 60-day period, ending Sept. 25, according to Netflix's measurements. The video-subscription company bases the data on internal metrics gathered from network endpoints.

Clustered in the 2.2 to 2.4 Mbps tier over the same period were several cable operators -- including Charter Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cable One and Cox Communications -- as well as AT&T's U-verse Internet service. Suddenlink Communications averaged less than 2.2 Mbps.

Unlike FiOS, AT&T U-verse is not a fiber-to-the-home network. Rather, it delivers fiber to the node then uses DSL to connect to subscribers' homes.

DSL services were markedly inferior to cable and fiber-based broadband. Verizon's conventional DSL was one of the worst performers on Netflix's rankings, averaging less than 1.5 Mbps, while DSL services from AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier and Windstream ranged between 1.4 and 1.8 Mbps.

Clearwire's wireless broadband service brought up the rear with under 1.4 Mbps.

Netflix recommends a broadband connection providing at least 1.5 Mbps to watch movies on connected TVs and other devices, noting that "the faster your connection, the better your picture quality will be."

Netflix first published the ISP rankings in January 2011, to call attention to which ISPs are best able to deliver its streaming-video service. Previously it combined all AT&T and Verizon services under one average, which drew criticism from observers that it wasn't providing an apples-to-apples comparison.

Netflix director of content delivery Ken Florance posted the results on the company's blog site Wednesday.

According to data from March 2011, Netflix streaming video accounts for 29.7% of peak downstream Internet traffic in North America and has become the largest source of Internet traffic overall, a study by bandwidth-management vendor Sandvine found.

In the last several months, Netflix has been on the receiving end of its customers' ire after the company eliminated its bundled DVD-plus-streaming plans, amounting to a price increase of up to 60%. It previously said it expected to lose 600,000 U.S. subscribers in the quarter ended Sept. 30 as a result of the change.

Netflix then announced it would split off DVDs into a separately operating unit called Qwikster, before backtracking and scrapping the idea this week in the wake of subscriber complaints.

Here is the full graph from Netflix (click to see larger size):

Netflix performance on top U.S. networks

September