Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

Summary: Netflix has issued performance ratings of Internet service providers based on the throughput of high-definition streams, but you should probably use these ratings for entertainment purposes only.

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Netflix has issued performance ratings of Internet service providers based on the throughput of high-definition streams, but you should probably use these ratings for entertainment purposes only.

Here's the money chart from Netflix's ISP ratings, which could give you eye strain if not expanded:

Now looking at this chart, you'd conclude that we should all be running to Charter for cable service right. Not quite. The big takeaway here is that cable companies do fairly well with Netflix and telecom carriers don't. That conclusion is a bit misleading.

For instance, the telecom results for AT&T and Verizon include both DSL (faster than dial-up, but pokey) and new services like FiOS and U-Verse. My performance---I have Verizon FiOS---is going to make the telecom look better on this chart while the guy with DSL the next town over is going to hurt the Netflix rating.

Here are a few observations worth noting.

  • Charter has the best performance for Netflix, but you can find plenty of people complaining about the cable carrier. Charter is rated bottom of the ISP barrel, according to Consumer Reports. Charter told CNet News that it is "strives to consistently deliver the fastest and most reliable Internet service." But I can go to a Charter locale, spin in a circle and hit someone that hates the company. Simply put, if people had choice they wouldn't be a Charter customer. In 2009, Charter filed for bankruptcy and emerged a few months later so perhaps service is improving.
  • Cable companies benefit from lack of legacy services. Cable providers all rate high on the Netflix scale because they don't have the DSL shackles. Verizon, Qwest and AT&T do. A better move would be to show DSL and the performance of newfangled networks separated. Consumer Reports also rates AT&T 's U-Verse and Verizon FiOS as the two top major ISPs. In other words, don't use the Netflix rankings as an ISP buying guide.
  • Clearwire is thrown under the bus unnecessarily. Looking at the Netflix data you'd think Clearwire was a dog. In fact, it's just the opposite. Clearwire is the only wireless carrier on Netflix chart. That means that Clearwire's 4G service is fast enough for consumers to stream Netflix. Clearwire's appearance on the Netflix chart shows how 4G changes consumer behavior. You'll also notice that Clearwire can outperform lower-ranked wired rivals from time to time.

Topics: Mobility, Broadband, Browser, CXO, Hardware, Networking, Telcos, IT Employment

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14 comments
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  • this is not just about raw throughput.. this is about exposing throttlers..

    That's what this exercise is about..<br><br>so what if Uverse and FiOs are fast if they end up throttling your service... and not saying they do.. i have no idea but this is what Netflix is trying to expose here.. if you are using Netflix as a cable TV replacement.. you are downloading 100s of gigs a month.. Cable companies are starting to frown on those folks especially since they are forgoing the TV services..
    doctorSpoc
    • I think you missed a key bit of data....

      @doctorSpoc
      Larry mentioned that the Verizon and AT&T data was misleading because they're lumping their stock DSL services in with their next gen fiber services like FIOS.

      If you've got 1000 people on stock DSL at 3 - 5 MBPs, and one or two on FIOS with it's 20 MBPs, those 1000 people will skew your average results badly.

      Now if you were to separate the data in question, then you might have a case for throttling - but as it is, you've got a lot of skewed data.
      Wolfie2K3
  • RE: Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

    I have FiOS and they don't throttle. They might in other areas, but not mine. Their customer service isn't too bad to deal with, though I haven't needed to contact them for about 18 months.
    Regulator1956
  • Did Netflix give the standard deviation?

    It would be interesting to know who varied the most over the month as well. Faster vs. slower is nice to know but some of those lines are pretty spikey!
    matthew_maurice
  • U-verse

    Can't complain about U-verse, I get 24 MB down... never had any issues streaming netflix my average dowload time is 2 MB per second.. so an MP3 file arrives in 6-7 seconds...
    Hasam1991
  • RE: Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

    Like cell phone plans, it really depends on your particular location. Thats why people always say "I have no problems with at&t" and then the next person says "how can at&t still be in business with their awful service". Unfortunately, people always assume and is convinced their personal experience represents everybody else's experience.
    rengek
    • Leaving U-verse and going back to TWC

      @rengek

      I'm leaving U-verse at the end of the month and going back to Time Warner cable. After a year of constant outages and unexplained slowdowns, I am done. Swapped gear, talked to 5 different engineers, finally got one of them to "speak frankly" about shoddy network design. Maybe they'll get their stuff sorted out, but until then it's back to the infuriating but much more reliable Roadrunner.
      terry flores
  • Netflix chart...

    ...totally useless.
    james347
  • Depends on mode of delivery

    No doubt the Fios takes the cake and the rest are somewhere in the middle. I do well with Comcast even if we have multiple streaming going on. DSL is almost as bad as dial up of old. The only plus is that you are not competing as much with other customers as you are on a Cable system were many subscribers share bandwidth.
    jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
  • RE: Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

    Thanks for posting, Larry. We just released a response over at the CLEAR blog, and we're happy to allow users to stream Netflix while they're on the bus or traveling. http://www.clear.com/blog/netflix-streaming-on-clear-4g/

    Cecile at CLEAR
    theCLEARblog
    • RE: Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

      @theCLEARblog Clearwire does not just offer 4G services. They also offer an older 3G technology in many areas which could also be affecting these numbers. I have a lot of experience with this and the oversold towers that it is provided from. I currently have 2Mb/256kb service from Clearwire. It works just fine during the day with promised speeds (actually, I get at least 384up as well) and decent ping times for wireless (50ms - 75ms). In the evening, it comes to a crawl. Often, I see 128 - 256kb downloads at peak times with 1500ms ping times. Try doing anything on that!
      idahosoxfan
  • RE: Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

    It's good to see Frontier where they belong(ranked #15, even the 4G service almost beat them). I finally got off those folks and even moved my telephone service. Talk about a sinking ship......haha
    simpleone71
    • RE: Netflix rates ISP performance: Don't use it as a buying guide

      @simpleone71

      Ironically, I recently got 7.1 Mb DSL from Frontier and I couldn't be happier. I imagine I am just in a lucky, former Verizon location. I have no trouble getting 4Mb+ streams from NetFlix, and my service doesn't drop out regularly like RoadRunner used to. If it gets as bad as depicted on this chart, I would be compelled to move to a better provider, but I suspect the fact that most of Frontier's users are in rural areas limits the speed they can get from DSL and therefore skews the averages for their network.
      ncted
  • Clearwire is a dog (for some people)

    Larry,

    Clearwire does not just offer 4G services. They also offer an older 3G technology in many areas which could also be affecting these numbers. I have a lot of experience with this and the oversold towers that it is provided from. I currently have 2Mb/256kb service from Clearwire. It works just fine during the day with promised speeds (actually, I get at least 384up as well) and decent ping times for wireless (50ms - 75ms). In the evening, it comes to a crawl. Often, I see 128 - 256kb downloads at peak times with 1500ms ping times. Try doing anything on that!
    idahosoxfan