If you're looking for the fastest possible Netflix streaming, move to Kansas City and get Google Fiber.
According to Netflix, Google's experimental Gigabit Internet service served up the fastest average streaming speeds of any service provider, by far. Average speeds through Google Fiber came in at 2.55 Mbps, compared to 2.19 Mbps for the second-place Verizon FiOS.
Netflix says it will publish monthly speed rankings for Internet service providers, starting this month with November's statistics. The company has rated providers by bandwidth for nearly two years, but in the form of day-by-day line graphs, rather than monthly averages.
There are a few interesting takeaways from Netflix's rankings:
First of all, while Google Fiber can technically offer download speeds in the hundreds of megabytes per second, real world uses won't come anywhere close to that.
As Ars Technica has pointed out, the Internet isn't structured around super-fast data speeds, so as data rates improve, bottlenecks will start to pile up on the other end of the connection. It seems like a classic chicken-and-egg scenario, but hopefully companies like Google that take the plunge on faster connections will start to move things forward.
In any case, Google Fiber provides the benefit of consistency. “Google Fiber is now the most consistently fast ISP in America, according to actual user experience on Netflix streams in November,” Ken Florence, Netf'lix's vice president of content delivery, wrote in a blog post.
As for other wireline service providers, cable tends to be faster than DSL, with streaming speeds dropping by about 0.6 Mbps between the two connection types. Fiber is fastest overall, but AT&T's U-Verse service is slower due to its use of a hybrid fiber-DSL service, Netflix says.
Netflix also ranked major wireless service providers. Clearwire, which currently provides WiMax service in select markets, was the fastest on average, followed by Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T in last place.
Because actual wireless speeds in any given area depend on the availability of 4G LTE or higher-end HSPA+, it's hard to view these rankings as definitive. However, they should be interesting to watch as service providers complete their 4G LTE rollouts. For now, check out PCWorld's 3G and 4G speed showdown for a closer look at how carriers fare.