A ranking by online streaming company Netflix shows progress at the bottom end of the spectrum of how quickly Canadian customers are able to stream the company's video content from their ISPs.
Netflix logs the download speeds for all of its 48 million customers around the world, to see what sort of service they get from various ISPs in different countries. Netflix often alleges ISPs intentionally give a lower priority to its data packets on their networks because they compete with some of those internet service providers' own in-house on-demand services, and as such have no incentive to offer a better Netflix experience for their customers.
"The average Netflix stream is about 2 Mbps (with most streams ranging from 256Kbps to 5.8Mbps), a fraction of the bandwidth most consumers purchase from their broadband provider," Netflix says. "Still, in some cases, people are unable to enjoy a high quality Netflix experience."
Canada was added to the global rankings in April, when Rogers earned a lot of bad press for coming in last place.
Rogers was quick to dismiss the claim at the time, arguing that it had already made network improvements that would see it rise in the rankings. That seems to have happened last month, although the cable giant still trails its major rivals, Telus and Bell.
Netflix customers on the Rogers network saw an average speed of 2.52 Mbps in May, a marked improvement from April's numbers when the company came in dead last in Canada with an average speed of 1.67.
That improvement was good enough to move Rogers up two spots in the ranking of 14 ISPs, but they are still near the bottom.
"We’ve now more than doubled our Netflix capacity," a spokesman for Rogers told CBC News Tuesday. "The latest report … doesn’t show the speeds customers are now getting. While it shows an improvement over April results, this month’s report includes testing done before we finished adding capacity. We expect next month’s results to show the improved speeds that customers are getting today."
Netflix's complete Canadian rankings of ISPs, with speeds, were as follows:
- Bell Canada (fibre optic) 3.16
- Bell Aliant (fibre optic) 3.07
- Shaw 3.02
- Videotron 2.83
- Teksavvy 2.83
- Eastlink 2.79
- Cogeco 2.77
- Distributel 2.71
- Allstream 2.63
- Telus 2.61
- Bell Canada (DSL) 2.56
- Rogers 2.52
- Sasktel 2.27
- Bell Aliant (DSL) 1.97
"No change to the top three, but TekSavvy, Allstream and Rogers all climbed two spots in the rankings with Rogers showing the biggest average speed improvement," Netflix said of the data.
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.
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 of what's likely happening on other websites.
Netflix is currently engaged in many high-profile fights with U.S. ISPs over allegations that the latter are throttling their traffic. The company has signed a confidential deal with Comcast to improve service, but is still squabbling with Verizon, over which company is to blame for spotty service for Netflix customers on the latter's network.