Verizon Fios Tops Netflix ISP Speed Index for March

Streaming speeds start to reflect Netflix’s new encoding scheme
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Verizon Fios stayed on top of the heap in Netflix’s ISP Speed Index for March 2016 among major U.S. providers, delivering an average speed during prime time of 3.69 Mbps.

That kept Fios ahead of Bright House Networks (3.64 Mbps), Cox Communications (3.62 Mbps), Cablevision Systems (3.59 Mbps), Charter Communications (3.58 Mbps) and Comcast (3.54 Mbps).

With smaller ISPs included, Midco and Grande Communications both delivered averages of 3.73 Mbps, followed by WideOpenWest (3.72 Mbps), Verizon Fios, and EPB (3.67 Mbps).

The bottom five among all U.S. ISPs ranked by Netflix included two satellite-based platforms -- Viasat (1.18 Mbps) and Hughes (1.39 Mbps) – CenturyLink (1.53 Mbps), Rise Broadband (1.92 Mbps) and Claro Puerto Rico (1.93 Mbps). 

The bottom five among larger ISPs were – CenturyLink, Verizon DSL (2.04 Mbps), Windstream (2.44 Mbps), Frontier Communications (2.52 Mbps) and AT&T DSL (2.7 Mbps).

The latest batch of numbers also reflect some of the bandwidth efficiencies gained by a new encoding scheme introduced by Netflix late last year that encodes content on a title-by-title basis.

“At the time, we said the new encodes would result in lower monthly averages for ISPs in our ISP Speed Index. With about 80% of our catalog now re-encoded, that change is beginning to impact the index,” Netflix’s Anne Marie Squeo explained in this blog post.

By way of example, she said the new encodes for the first episode of House of Cards season four streamed 720p video quality at 910 Kbps and 1080p starting at 1620 Kbps on TVs. “[P]reviously the lowest bit rates for those same streams were 2350 Kbps and 4300 Kbps, respectively,” she added.

As providers go, Verizon Fios, for example, saw its average drop from 3.79 Mbps in February 2016 to 3.69 Mbps in March 2016.