Led by Google Fiber, Cablevision Systems, Cox Communications, Suddenlink Communications and Charter Communications, the top five U.S. ISPs as ranked by Netflix remained unchanged in January while Verizon (DSL and FiOS Internet), AT&T U-verse, and Mediacom Communications all dropped at least one spot.
Taking the hardest hit in Netflix’s monthly ISP Speed Index for January was Mediacom Communications, which dropped five spots, to number 13 on a list that ranks 17 U.S. ISPs. Coincidentally, Mediacom, which provided an average Netflix streaming speed of 1.53 Mbps in January (versus 1.79 Mbps during the month prior), has been using a transparent caching system from Qwilt in favor of Open Connect, a private content delivery network that relies on Netflix-supplied edge caches. Until a shift in policy last September, Netflix had been withholding access to its library of higher bit rate “Super HD” content to subscribers who get broadband service from ISPs that are members of Open Connect.
Among others losing ground in the Netflix index, AT&T U-verse dropped three spots, to number 12, delivering an average Netflix stream of 1.59 Mbps in the month of January.
Verizon DSL, with an average streaming speed of 970 kbps, fell one spot to find itself in last place, behind Clearwire and its average of 990 kbps. Verizon FiOS also dropped a spot, to number 7, with an average of 1.81 Mbps, off from the 2.11 Mbps average posted by Netflix in December.
U.S. ISPs that made up ground included Time Warner Cable (one spot, to number 6); Bright House (five spots, to number 8); Windstream (two spots, to number 9); and Clearwire (one spot, to number 16).
But any shift in Verizon's results, even when viewed through Netflix's lens, comes at a sensitive time. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday vacated much of the FCC's Open Internet Order and kicked it back to the Commission. Netflix’s latest rankings were also posted the week after David Raphael, an engineer with iScan Online, claimed that Verizon FiOS was intentionally throttling Netflix streams and other streams delivered via Amazon Web Services, and posted a screen shot of what he said was an online chat exchange with a Verizon customer service representative who admitted to Raphael that Verizon is limiting bandwidth to cloud providers.
Verizon strongly denied that it was throttling those streams, noting that the rep’s assertions to the contrary were mistaken.
“We treat all traffic equally, and that has not changed,” the company said in a statement. “Many factors can affect the speed a customer’s experience for a specific site, including, that site’s servers, the way the traffic is routed over the Internet, and other considerations. We are looking into this specific matter, but the company representative was mistaken. We are going to redouble our representative education efforts on this topic.”
Netflix declined to comment on the findings posted by Raphael last week, but the company said in January month that it would count on its subscribes to join the fight if ISPs were to implement policies requiring consumers to pay extra in order to have its video streams run unhindered on a broadband fast lane.
“In principle, a domestic ISP now can legally impede the video streams that members request from Netflix, degrading the experience we jointly provide,” the company said in fourth quarter 2013 shareholder letter regarding the recent court decision. “The motivation could be to get Netflix to pay fees to stop this degradation. Were this draconian scenario to unfold with some ISP, we would vigorously protest and encourage our members to demand the open Internet they are paying their ISP to deliver.”