Comcast holds on to Netflix's ISP streaming top ranking

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Comcast has once again taken the top spot on Netflix’s top U.S. ISP streaming rankings for January, beating out a number of the top telcos that have not upgraded a large part of their plant from copper to fiber yet.

The Philadelphia-based cable MSO came in at 3.83 Mbps, slightly down from the previous 3.84 Mbps it had in the previous period.

Despite the slight decrease, Comcast has been aggressively expanding the availability of a number of its speed tiers.

Besides upgrading its plant to support DOCSIS 3.1 for 1 and 2 Gbps tiers in select markets, the cable MSO is also gave its Performance Plus and Blast tier customers’ automatic upgrades from 75 Mbps and 150 Mbps to 100 and 200 Mbps, respectively.  

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Being able to offer an array of higher speed broadband services will enable Comcast to potentially attract new customers who don’t want a slower DSL line.

Joining Comcast in the top rankings are Optimum (3.79 Mbps), Bright House (3.77 Mbps), Verizon FiOS (3.72 Mbps), and Cox Communications (3.71 Mbps).

Netflix ISP Jan 2017

While Comcast also dominates Netflix’s broader rankings, it is joined by a number of aggressive regional MSOs at the top rankings, including Grande Communications (3.80 Mbps), WOW! (3.80 Mbps), and Midco (3.79 Mbps), which take the second, third and fourth-ranked spots.

Verizon FiOS took the fourth spot at 3.72 Mbps, coming down from 3.81 in the earlier period.

In the markets where FiOS is available, Verizon is giving cable a competitive run for their money by offering a number of symmetrical speed tiers that range from 50 Mbps to 500 Mbps.

Netflix noted that “there was no major movement in the US index in January.”

While Netflix’s list represents the performance of one particular month, overall network performance can also vary depending on whether an ISP has joined Netflix's Open Connect Content Delivery Network, or if they've struck a direct interconnection deal with Netflix.

Cable’s growing broadband dominance

Cable overall has continued to find growing dominance in the broadband race over the telcos by offering higher speeds, particularly in areas where telcos only offer copper-based DSL today.  

While the fourth-quarter earnings reporting season is still in motion, it’s clear that the top MSOs continue have a strong hand in the broadband subscriber department. 

Comcast reported that in the fourth quarter that it added 400,000 broadband subscribers. Comcast also reported the addition of 1.4 million broadband customers in 2016, its best full-year result in nine years.

For Comcast, a likely contributor to the growth is its ongoing efforts to upgrade network speeds.

Comcast previously upgraded speeds for popular broadband tiers in nine states where it has yet to roll out DOCSIS 3.1-powered gigabit services, including Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona (Tucson), Minnesota, Texas (Houston) and Missouri (Kansas City).

Charter added 357,000 broadband users in the fourth quarter, but fell short of analysts’ forecast of about 435,000 new broadband additions.

One issue that likely contributed to Charter’s missing analyst expectations was the ongoing transition of Time Warner Cable subscribers to Spectrum pricing and packaging.

Charter told investors during its fourth quarter earnings call that as of December 321 it was 50% finished with the transition to Spectrum pricing and packaging in its acquired systems.

Other cable MSOs like Mediacom and Optimum won’t report their earnings until later this month, but it’s likely both will continue with a similar broadband growth trend they saw during their third quarter results.

Mediacom reported during the third quarter that it added 17,000 high-speed data customers, up from 16,000 in the same quarter a year ago, for example.

DSL providers’ speeds slide

Perhaps not surprisingly, DSL providers are holding onto the bottom part of Netflix's ISP speed rankings.

DSL customers that reside in a market where a cable competitor is present are likely to churn to cable for a higher speed service from a cable competitor.

Frontier, AT&T, and CenturyLink’s DSL speeds were a mixed bag.

On the Netflix ranking, Frontier dropped slightly from 3.02 Mbps to 3 Mbps. CenturyLink was 2.92 Mbps, up from 2.79 Mbps, while AT&T DSL dropped from 2.9 Mbps to 2.85 Mbps.

However, Verizon and Windstream’s DSL networks were even more telling. Verizon and Windstream came in dead last at 2.7 and 2.58 Mbps, respectively. Windstream held onto its previous speed, while Verizon dropped from 2.6 Mbps.

Retaining DSL subs has become less and less of a priority for Verizon, particularly as it looks to become more a media related company by purchasing AOL and Yahoo.  

During the fourth quarter, Verizon lost a net 68,000 high-speed Internet subs during the fourth quarter, and 282,000 for all of last year.

The loss of 282,000 traditional copper DSL customers put a dent in the telco's overall broadband subscriber base. As of the end of the quarter, Verizon had a total of 1.4 million subscribers.