A ranking by streaming company Netflix says Bell has the fastest internet speeds in Canada, and Rogers has the slowest.

Netflix included Canada in its global rankings for the first time last month, adding it to a list of 20 countries in which it operates and monitors how data transfer is getting faster — or slower — over time.

Netflix customers who streamed movies or TV shows through Bell's fibre optic network in April had an average speed of 3.19 megabits per second, while Rogers' average speed was just 1.67 Mbps, the company said.

'Data should be seen as a utility.'- Neal Bearse, Queen's University professor

​Those two companies were the fastest and slowest, respectively, in Netflix's rankings of 14 Canadian ISPs.

Rogers said in a statement that numerous other surveys have found their network to be the fastest in Canada, and notes that the numbers released Monday refer only to Netflix data — not other types of web traffic.

"These results only apply to customers’ specific Netflix connection and not overall internet speeds," a spokesman for Rogers told CBC News. "Netflix’s test was done just before we virtually doubled Netflix capacity and we’ll continue to add more capacity as it’s needed."

A request for comment by CBC News to Bell Canada was not immediately returned.

Netflix's complete Canadian rankings, with speeds, were as follows:

  • Bell Canada (fibre optic), 3.19 Mbps
  • Bell Aliant (fibre optic), 3.1
  • Shaw, 3
  • Videotron, 2.82
  • Cogeco, 2.78
  • Eastlink, 2.76
  • Teksavvy, 2.76
  • Distributel, 2.73
  • Telus, 2.54
  • Bell Canada (DSL) 2.53
  • Allstream, 2.52
  • Sasktel, 2.24
  • Bell Aliant (DSL) 1.79
  • Rogers, 1.67.

For a Netflix customer, connection speed would affect the quality of the image and audio being received, and whether the system frequently pauses itself during playback to rebuffer. Broadly speaking, the higher the speed number, the better the picture and audio quality, and the less likely it is to pause.

The rankings are based on more than a billion hours of streaming time every month by Netflix's 48 million customers worldwide. The company acknowledges that average speeds are quite often beaten by peak performances, but it says its numbers "are an indicator of the performance typically experienced across all users on an ISP network."

Speed can be affected by back-end factors on an ISP's infrastructure, but can also be temporarily slowed by factors such as what else the customer's local network is doing at any given time, and how many devices they have connected to the internet.

It's been estimated that Netflix makes up almost a third of all data transferred over the internet at times, so the company's findings on connection speeds are illustrative.

"It's an important thing to be aware of as Netflix enters into territory that affects the businesses of Bell and Rogers and a lot of the other ISPs," Queens University business professor Neil Bearse said in an interview. "They're stepping up to the plate and making a case for net neutrality."

Across Canada as a whole, the average Netflix user saw download speeds of 2.52 Mbps last month.

"As a country, the average speed for Netflix in Canada beats that of the United States, but ranks below most European nations," Netflix said on its website.

The average U.S. speed was 2.33 Mbps, while it was 3.49 Mbps in the Netherlands, 3.21 Mbps in Sweden and 3.167 Mbps in Denmark.

The slowest country in Netflix's rankings was Costa Rica, with an average speed of 1.18 Mbps. 

Netflix's numbers are interesting for Canadian consumers to note as they make their purchasing decisions, Bearse said.

"It becomes a pretty scary world when the companies that are providing you with access to internet and wireless data are being influenced by the way that they are making money in other business units," Bearse said.

"Data should be seen as a utility rather than something that can be shaped depending on people's business perspectives," he said.