Verizon FiOS doesn't have an edge over cable in Netflix rankings

25 May 2013 by Steve Blum
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Netflix accounts for a third of the Internet traffic in North America, so it’s not surprising it has something to say about how well Internet service providers perform. Whether or not the ISPs appreciate the input. Netflix just updated its speed index of U.S. wireline and fixed wireless companies and, not surprisingly, Google Fiber tops the chart. On the average, Netflix viewers connecting via Google Fiber do so at 3.4 Mbps.

Of course there wouldn’t be many of those, since Google Fiber’s reach is very limited. More interesting is the 6th place ranking of Verizon’s fiber-based FiOS service. Judging from Netflix’s experience, FiOS isn’t significantly better than cable modem service, coming in at 2.2 Mbps, behind Cablevision (2.4 Mbps), Cox and SuddenLink (2.3 Mbps) and tied with Charter. It’s barely ahead of the rest of the cable pack, which come in around 2.1 Mbps.

Advanced DSL services come next, with AT&T’s Uverse the best of the lot with a 2.0 Mbps average. Legacy DSL is about half a megabit slower, and the single fixed wireless provider – Clearwire – is dead last at 1.2 Mbps.

The Netflix index doesn’t really measure the overall speeds that broadband users are getting. Measurements are affected by factors such as other household traffic, home network performance and the kind of devices used. But it’s a fair basis for comparing how different companies and technologies are able to handle the Internet’s biggest bandwidth hog.

On that measure, Verizon’s fiber implementation doesn’t provide an advantage over cable. Google’s does, but the question is whether it can maintain that edge as subscriber density increases. It’s a contest to watch.