Which Internet Provider Is The Best For Streaming Netflix?

How well you’ll be able to stream season two of Breaking Bad on Netflix may depend largely on which company you’re paying to provide internet service to your home. Netflix has just released the results of its own study on network performance and the results may not surprise you.

Topping the list and consistently faster than all other providers was Verizon FiOS. And while it may not shock anyone that a fiber-optic network would beat out all cable internet providers, it’s interesting to note that results for AT&T’s fiber network were often slower than almost all the cable companies involved in the study.

Most of the major cable providers — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cablevision — appear to be delivering similar speeds, all generally faster than what AT&T fiber-optic customers are seeing. Only one cable company, Suddenlink, fared consistently worse than AT&T.

In terms of DSL service, there was a wider range of performance speeds represented. And while Verizon FiOS may have been the fastest overall network, its DSL network ranked among the slowest in the study.

If you have a choice of DSL, it looks like CenturyLink’s network performed the best in the Netflix study. However, even the best DSL networks were significantly slower than the worst-performing cable provider.

See the full chart at the Netflix Tech Blog [via HackingNetflix]

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  1. Cat says:

    So, all I have to do is choose the right IP, and…

    …oh, wait…

    • mauispiderweb says:

      I remember when I only had one choice, so at least now we have 9 evils to choose from.

      • quail says:

        It all depends on where you live. Some poor souls have only one choice still when it comes to broadband.

      • longdvsn says:

        …lucky for you. Most of America is still stuck with a monopolistic system with just one or two evils to pick from.

        At my home (in the city center of a fairly big city with pop. 450k, metro over 1mil), I have two choices…Time Warner Cable – Cable, or ATT – DSL. DSL is INCREDIBLY slow and unreliable, and requires home phone service for them to come out and install it.

        • Trixie.in.Dixie says:

          I have AT&T’s Uverse DSL without home phone service or the TV option – just the internet. I called to get my service switched up from regular DSL @ 3mbps to Uverse @12mbps (avail. up to 24mbps for home users) and they sent me the wireless router kit which I installed myself in about 15 minutes. I never have trouble with Netflix, nor my internet service – ever. I’ve had AT&T DSL since 2003 and have never had it flake out on me. Just luck?

    • Tunnen says:

      I choose 127.0.0.1 It’s mine, hands off!

  2. Murph1908 says:

    Everybody’s quality dips at the same time in the center of that graph. Wonder why.

    • Herbz says:

      Peak internet time maybe?

      • Murph1908 says:

        If you click through to the article, you see that the dip is across a few days, not a few hours.

        It was around 9/18.

        • BigDragon says:

          I’m going to blame Apple and the iPhone 4 S rumors before the official unveiling. Some of my favorite tech sites failed for a couple days because of Apple. Clearly all of the drops are because of Apple. There must be no other explanation.

  3. nicless says:

    I have Suddenlink, and I can confirm they are horrible. At seemingly random times my Netflix will go from HD quality to the dreaded “Your network connection has slowed” 1 bar. That’s not even during just heavy internet traffic times. On top of that, they just introduced (at least in my area) monthly caps that say if you use over the alotted data they say you should use, you can pay for more.

    • EarlNowak says:

      Suddenlink- you’re connected!

    • benk016 says:

      I am also on suddenlink and I have exact opposite experience. I get the 20mb package and ALWAYS get 20mb. Netflix is ALWAYS instantly HD it doesn’t even start at a lower quality and jump up.

  4. Megalomania says:

    Oh boy – useless data. Comparing ISPs is worthless when people can’t choose. Suddenlink, to use the low hanging fruit, clearly isn’t holding onto subscribers by the quality of its service or low, low prices.

  5. TuxthePenguin says:

    I do wonder… does Netflix take into account different tiers offered by each provider? I ask because my house has the top level AT&T speeds due to my business… and I never have a problem with Netflix because of it.

    Still, 15% from the top of the high-end (2600) to the low end (2200) might just due to product mix…

    • Darury says:

      Based on the mbits/sec, I’d say they are taking the entry level for each. I have 40mb/sec service from Century Link and while I don’t normally hit exactly 40, I can expect a minimum of 25mb/sec with an average of 30-35mb/sec.

      Not really an issue streaming anything even when I’m downloading.

  6. Tunnen says:

    I make my own ISP reviews at 127.0.0.1

    Sorry, I had to do this one! =P

  7. the_Jenkins says:

    I have Verizon FioS (slowest connection package) and still get up to 2.3/mb download speeds. Amazing service, never any outages and all for a great price! Keller, TX was lucky to get FioS as it’s primary service provider. All others that I’ve used are horrible.

    • nicless says:

      I have Suddenlink and have 10 Mbps service and STILL have trouble with Netflix.

    • RandomMutterings says:

      I have FiOS and it’s been simply amazing. Since I also run a PBX on the service I can tell when the internet is ‘down.’ A total of 20 minutes over the past year. Other than that I get a consistent 25 Mbps down and 20-25 Mbps up.

    • soj4life says:

      2.3mb? That is pretty slow.

  8. sirwired says:

    My TWC connection rocks. I’m paying for 10Mb (they’ve gradually upgraded it for free over the years) and my 10-yr old Cable Modem is pulling down 16Mbps. I routinely get Netflix HD when it’s available.

    Although sometimes I do have to stop and start the movie several times to get a high-quality connection. (Unlike most Netflix devices, mine displays the current quality of the stream.)

  9. evilpete says:

    What is the X axis? Time? If so what scale

  10. GearheadGeek says:

    The reason AT&T’s “fiber” network underperforms most of the cable networks is that the last mile for uVerse is copper with all the usual limitations for xDSL. They just couldn’t let go of the huge copper infrastructure they have, so they standardized on a technology they knew was limited.

    • MrEvil says:

      Yeah, it’s only Fiber to the block for many older residential neighborhoods. Only the newest developments get the best quality UVerse with fewer feet of copper. (Or none at all in some instances).

  11. david.c says:

    Verizon FioS being sold …

    So yea, good news is that this increases the value and ergo money Verizon will get … the bad news is that whoever takes over might over saturate and end up like AT&T with less then stellar throughput.

  12. c152driver says:

    I don’t think this is a good way to compare ISPs. You really need to look at the speed you are actually getting vs. the speed you are paying for. Of course the DSL providers are going to appear slower because they offer slower speeds such as 768kbps and 1.5Mbps. However, I am fortunate to be in an area where I can get up to 40Mbps from CenturyLink. What really matters is the speed you are getting not the average speed across all service tiers for a provider.

  13. pinteresque says:

    I’m sorry, but remind me how it is that I cross the quantum divide into the alternate universe where I have a choice between ISPs so that the study can actually be relevant to me? My choices at the moment are between dial-up, 1.5mbps DSL from Verizon and claims-to-be-15mbps, actually-more-like-3mbps Comcast. This is in a Northeast city with 100,000+ people in it.

    All this does is make me sad.

  14. Lisse24 says:

    This makes me sad.
    After Comcast failed to be able to install cable in my condo, I went with my only other option, Verizon, for internet.
    Unfortunately, I live in an “historic” neighborhood, and Verizon has been told that it’s not allowed to lay Fios cables (or else I would have signed up for Fios in a second!). Now historic is in quotes, because what we’re really talking about is 60-70 year old homes that were designed to be lower middle-class when built, many of which have the original crumbling chain link fences (which law prohibits from taking down or replacing!).
    Normally, I love my neighborhood, but not so much while I’m struggling to load internet pages.

  15. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    What is this choice you speak of?

    • Tunnen says:

      Would you like to go with:

      A) Evil Monopoly number 1?
      B) Evil Monopoly number 1?
      C) Evil Monopoly number 1?
      D) Dial-up*
      E) None of the above.

      * I’m assuming there must still be a dial-up ISP somewhere, though it’s likely been bough and now operated by Evil Monopoly number 1. =P

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        Yes, I’ll take evil monopoly number 1! Exactly my point. I have a choice between Comcast and Dial Up. So, if I want to stream anything, it’s Comcast or nothing, or move to another town where I get the choice of … Comcast or maybe Verizon. Yay.

  16. The Brad says:

    I’m going to claim the AT&T one is inaccurate. When I run a speed test, the website can’t determine if I’m an AT&T DSL user or a ST&T UVerse user. The quality for streaming netflix for me is great and I’ve never had an issue getting a strong HD signal.

  17. sixsevenco says:

    Yea! Something I can like CenturyLink about. Unlike their botched transition of my q.com email account from Microsoft Hotmail to their internal services… Took an EECB to get it fixed!

  18. ScandalMgr says:

    I make my own charts using http://www.dslreports.com/speedtest

  19. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I <3 charter – Decent connection and decent prices.

  20. NotEd says:

    As a current AT&T Uverse customer and former Verizon Fios one, I can say with certainty:

    Uverse sux!

    Still, they are so desperate to keep customer’s they will almost always deal with you to keep you a customer, making them cheaper than the alternative of Comcast in my area.

    • fortymegafonzies says:

      I tried to sign up with AT&T Uverse and 35 days for activating my service was the best they could do. Seriously, 35 days to to flip the fabled switch. Naturally they don’t tell you this until after you sign up, and then they still send you the modem and try to bill you a couple times even though you cancelled immediately.

  21. Slader says:

    Wow, I feel pretty lucky (comparatively speaking). I live in a small town (about 32,000) I have a choice between Comcast cable (6 Mbs), Verizon (Frontier) DSL (768 Kbs) and Cinergy Metronet cable (20 Mbs). Needless to say, I have gone with the Cinergy Metronet and am very pleased with the service.

  22. TasteyCat says:

    How long before I hit Comcast’s bandwidth cap?

  23. ZIMMER! says:

    I love my FiOS! I will never switch, super fast and they fix any issues (few and far between) I work from home and I usually have at least 4 systems running, TV’s and Wii and a few other things hooked up to it. Fantastic.

  24. PsiCop says:

    Wow, Charter is near the top? I have Charter Internet and Netflix works great with it, but all things considered, it’s still surprising they’d come out near the top in a study like this.

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      Maybe it’s different in other areas of the country (people from Texas seem to hate ‘em), but besides being expensive like all other cable providers, Charter has been decent up here in the Great Lakes state I’m from.

  25. Steevo says:

    Those dsl providers advertise 3 mb lines. As slow as 1.5 mb, but mostly 3 mb.
    The cable providers advertise 6 or even 15 mb lines.

    According to this no one is getting what they are paying for. What a ripoff.

  26. Mr Grey says:

    My parents have a 768k DSL line that is resold from Frontier to their podunk telco. It streams surprisingly well considering its a very rural area.

  27. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Yes, my AT&T DSL Is slower than cable, but around here my only other choice is Mediacom, which has a shitty reputation for internet. Their cable is pretty good but I hear their internet is awful.

    I’ve called AT&T about my capacity issue so many times I’m on the “priority customer” list. They keep trying but there’s not much we can do unless U-Verse finally gets to me. If I have the speed at 2.5 mbps, I can watch Netflix just fine on my newer laptop. If the DSL starts dropping again, then I’m not sure what to do, short of moving.

  28. shelman23 says:

    AT&T sucks.
    I have internet outages every day at least 25 times.
    They tried to fix it more than once but they just don’t care. There isn’t anyone else here but comcast and they suck too.

  29. Maveleye says:

    You can actually get DSL without the phone line. You just need to ask for Dry Loop DSL or as wikipedia calls it Naked DSL. Wikipedia you silly thing you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_DSL

  30. andyg8180 says:

    you forgot to factor in the DataCaps… that drops most of them off your list…