Netflix 'ISP Speed Index' Is Company's Latest Effort To Hold Internet Providers Accountable

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, file photo, a Netflix envelop containing a DVD to be returned by mail is clipped onto
FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, file photo, a Netflix envelop containing a DVD to be returned by mail is clipped onto a mailbox, in Springfield, Ill. Netflix won’t miss Saturday mail delivery, even though the weekend service helped keep its DVD-by-mail subscribers happy. The U.S. Postal Service’s planned shift to five days of home delivery a week instead of six may even make Netflix Inc. slightly more profitable. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Netflix really wants to take Internet service providers to task.

On Monday, Netflix revealed a new wesbite for comparing Netflix streaming speeds across ISPs both nationally and internationally. In any country where Netflix now operates, the "ISP Speed Index From Netflix" will show users and potential users the best Internet providers for facilitating all of that important late-night streaming.

This is, of course, nothing new for Netflix's U.S. customers, as the company has been tracking American ISP speeds since December. Of more interest to U.S. users, perhaps, is that Netflix streaming speeds can now be compared across countries. The comparison reveals some surprising results. Mainly, the U.S., known for having slower Internet connections than other nations, oddly has "the highest average Netflix streaming bitrate," a measurement of Internet speed, according to the index.

Why is that? Well, the U.S. is home to Google Fiber, which streams Netflix films at 3.35 megabits per second and is significantly faster than any other ISP in other Netflix-streaming nations. (Sweden clocks in at second, with its Ownit network providing 2.99 megabits per second.) But without Google Fiber, the average Netflix streaming bitrate in the U.S. suddenly drops to 1.8 megabits per second, according to Nick Statt on Readwrite. "That's only 0.1 Mbps faster than Ireland, and 0.2 Mbps speedier than Mexico, which is last on the list," he writes.

And herein may lie the crux of Netflix's newest efforts. Netflix has lately become a somewhat self-appointed advocate for faster consumer streaming speeds. It is now responsible for 33 percent of Internet traffic in North America, according to Sandvine, a Canadian networking-equipment company. It seems that more than any other single company, Netflix stands to gain from speedy Internet connections. The "Speed Index" provides a valuable public service, while also conveniently helping Netflix by incentivizing ISPs to compete with each other on speed.

This isn't the first time Netflix has tried to shape ISP behavior by congratulating "good" ISPs and calling out "bad" ones. In January, the company announced it would begin streaming Super-HD and 3D movies -- but only to customers whose ISPs supported the formats. Subscribers to services like Cablevision and Google Fiber were given new, 3D options while subscribers to other, more intransigent ISPs (like Time Warner Cable and AT&T) were encouraged to contact their Internet providers.



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