Comcast and Netflix, sitting in a tree, S-T-R-E-A-M-I-N-G.
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If you're like me, you love binge-watching Netflix on the weekends. But whether you're checking out the newest season of Love or watching old episodes of Friends, there's nothing worse than when your pristine HD-quality stream suddenly chokes up and looks like junk.
The cause is often network congestion, because—surprise!—-your neighbors all like streaming Netflix at night too. Every internet service provider manages this bottleneck differently, and some do a better job than others. And while most people unfortunately only have one or two ISPs to choose from in their area, if you are picking between multiple providers, it's important to know which one provides the best Netflix experience.
Netflix has a tool that helps you do exactly this. It's called the ISP Speed Index, and it is a sortable list of all the ISPs in the country, with month-by-month breakdowns of how well they stream Netflix during primetime. It's been running for a few years now, but since December of last year, one ISP has quickly risen to the top in the US: Comcast.
That's a big surprise, since among the major ISPs Comcast's primetime Netflix performance has been among the worst for the past two years, according to this same measurement. But the company's results surged starting in November of last year, and it's been top of the heap for the last three months running with an average video bitrate of 3.87Mbps.
While that doesn't sound like much when you're paying for 50 or 100MBps internet from the company, Netflix's video is heavily compressed. Even still, the larger the bitrate, the better-looking your video stream will be. When your video chokes up and it looks like a mosaic painting? That's because Netflix has dropped the bitrate to keep the stream moving.
It is important to note that this also doesn't include all the other traffic your ISP is handling from your home, like your angry Twitter rant about what a jerk Ross really was in retrospect. Also we should point out that Comcast isn't that far above other ISPs like Verizon, which is #2 among major ISPs and #3 if you include smaller providers like Grande Communications.
And though our internet is frequently blasted for being overpriced and slow compared to other countries, Comcast's performance would be among the best in several other major Netflix-loving countries like South Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The US is among the worst performers on average, though, and even Comcast and Verizon fall well behind some fiber-based ISPs in Japan, Norway, Sweden, Germany and several types of ISPs in Switzerland and Belgium.