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Netflix Shames ISPs

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) on Thursday published its rankings of the video streaming quality provided by 16 U.S. and four Canadian broadband service providers.

Netflix says it used time-weighted bit-rate metrics to represent the data throughput subscribers get. The company says its top HD streams are served at 4.8 Mbit/s.

Why this matters
Netflix intends to refresh the rankings monthly, offering a snapshot of which ISPs are most adept at delivering HD streams and which ones could use a kick in the pants. The move could, at the very least, irritate telcos and cable broadband providers while emboldening Netflix customers to ask laggard broadband providers for better quality of service.

Cable and net neutrality
Cable high-speed services performed well in the Netflix rankings, taken from October 1, 2010 to Jan. 15, 2011. Charter Communications Inc. was tops with a 2.66Mbit/s average, followed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC). Telcos such as Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) were represented in the second tier, with CenturyTel (now CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL)), Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR), and Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) listed as having the worst streaming quality in the bunch.

US Oh, Canada

But Netflix's rankings are also coming into view as it's linked to a kerfuffle between Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) over peering agreements and delivery fees for traffic shared between content distribution networks and last-mile access networks. That fight was sparked soon after Level 3 notched a deal to carry some of Netflix's traffic over its CDN.

For more

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:14:17 PM
re: Netflix Shames ISPs

Clearwire responded today on its blog, noting it was "jazzed" about its ability to HD streaming via Netflix, but said the report "doesn't tell the full story."   In fact,  it's pretty happy it was ranked at all and that it showed that it was capable of providing HD streams.

 Granted, Clearwire was the only wireless broadband ISP Netflix included in the rankings… but Clearwire likewise acknowledged that "[W]ired networks are simply capable of achieving faster speeds than wireless networks. That's just the nature of these technologies."  So, wired trumps wireless when it comes to streaming... but wires don't help people who need their Netflix fix when they're on the go.


As for the comparison, fair or not, I suppose if Netflix ranked 3G services, they'd barely register. I've tried streaming Netflix using 3G on an ipad... it makes VHS quality look like hi-def.


However, Netflix will be updating these regularly, so it'll be interesting to see how the comparisons change once AT&T, Verizon, and others start to get LTE off the ground. 


I have to agree that Clearwire's got a point… they don’t stand much of a chance against the competition that was listed in the first rankings.  But when Netflix starts comparing WiMax with LTE… that'll be sure to set off a fiery debate.  JB



Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:13:17 PM
re: Netflix Shames ISPs

The ISP community may get another dose of humility on February 17 when the U.S. Commerce Department will reportedly unveil a map showing which communities are getting broadband, and which ones are coming up short.  

According to the National Journal, the map may prove embarrassing to some major telcos, including AT&T and Verizon,  because it will highlight rural areas that "have been left high and dry"  when it comes to broadband.

The map, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also comes into play as the FCC  tries to move forward on its ambitious National Broadband Plan, and should give the agency plenty of bulls eyes  at which to point. JB

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