Charter Communications, Comcast and Suddenlink rank among the best companies for watching Netflix, by the measure of best average bit rate.
Netflix released a chart of average bit rates of various major ISPs as they streamed Netflix content over the course of several weeks at the end of the fourth quarter.
The results hold little surprise. Cable operators were bunched among the top providers, at 2.5 Mbps or thereabouts. Phone companies, still relying largely on typically bandwidth-constrained DSL, occupied the middle, in the 1.9 Mbps area. Wireless providers came in at the bottom, clustered around 1.5 Mbps or so.
"Currently, our top HD streams are about 4800 kilobits per second," noted Netflix director of content delivery Ken Florance in his blog post. "Clients may switch through a number of bitrates as they ramp up to the highest stream, or shift down from the highest stream if they cannot sustain play at that rate due to throughput constraints. No client would sustain a 4800 stream from start to finish (there would at least be a few smaller streams averaged in for startup) but the higher the sustained average, the greater the throughput the client can achieve, and the greater the image quality over the duration of the play."
Netflix recently signed a CDN deal with Level 3, causing an enormous amount of speculation whether it was about to cease working with other CDN partners, specifically Akamai. Florance's post addressed that obliquely with a sentence clause suggesting Netflix will continue working with multiple CDNs ("as we use a number of CDNs").
(There's a separate chart for four Canadian providers that can be linked to on the main blog page.)