Knowing what’s the fastest ISP or (Internet Service Provider) is an important consideration these days. This is especially true for subscribers to services like Netflix, Comcast XFINITY, and any other online video streaming service. Slower Internet service may end up causing lag and a jumpy video stream. This is extremely annoying, especially if you’re paying to watch that video stream. I’ve done some research into this question and have come up with some answers.
Internet speed is measured in the number of bytes per second that data is able to move in either direction on your connection. This is known as Baud Rate. The most important number usually is the download baud rate, but if you send files with any regularity, and especially if you send large files, upload speed is also a prime concern. All of these tests rate download speed, or throughput/bandwidth, as more important, and usually give it at least 80 percent of a score’s weight, with upload bandwidth getting 20 percent of the scoring weight.
Netflix Rates Google Fiber Fastest ISP
This isn’t terribly surprising if you think about it. Most ISPs still use copper wiring to most of their customer’s homes. However, Google Fiber is using, well, fiber-fiber optic cabling. Fiber optic cabling is, on average, in the area of 10 times as fast as the average copper connection. So, Google Fiber being rated the fastest is not really a big surprise.
Netflix has decided to help its customers by coming out with a list of the fastest North American ISPs. For December 2012, Google took top honors with synchronous speeds of up to one gigabit (One gigabit download AND upload). Measured streaming speeds were in the neighborhood of 2.57 Mbps! The only drawback to this is the fact that Google Fiber isn’t available everywhere in North America yet.
Charter Communications took second honors with measured speeds of 2.11 Mbps. Comcast took third place with average throughput speeds of 2.10 Mbps. However, Comcast caps throughput around 300 GB or less, so if you watch movies on a daily basis and have Comcast, you may have a disappointing surprise towards the end of the month.
TopTenReview’s Lists Three Fastest ISPs
TopTenReview is another website I use quite often to help me make informed buying decisions on new hardware, software, and services. They aren’t as old and trusted as PCMag, but they are still, in my opinion, quite reliable and their testing protocols are always quite good. However, they don’t list the bandwidth that any of the ISPs were able to deliver, they just rate the ISPs from one to ten.
TopTen’s list is pretty close to PCMag’s list. Comcast tops it, with Time Warner Cable being second. Comcast received a score of 9.25/10 and Time Warner Cable got 8.6/10. Coming in a close third was a newcomer to the lists, AT&T, which received an overall rating of 8.58.
North America’s Fastest ISPs According to BBR
I’ve mentioned BroadbandReports.com in another article on speed testing. I’ve been using them for more than 20 years, since they were known as dslreports.com. This was when DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) Internet connections were brand new, expensive, and the fastest thing on the planet for the consumer market. At the time, I had access to expensive and extremely accurate bandwidth testing equipment and the results I received using their online tests were within one percent of the results I received using my (actually my company’s) expensive equipment. It’s this established accuracy in their testing results that has made me trust them more than any other testing site.
Their ISP rankings are based upon the results that users have received during testing and the information given by those users during and after the testing process. To me, this means they’re more accurate and less biased than other results. You will notice that none of the download speeds they list are as fast as those quoted in the other tests. As I said, I think they’re more accurate and accurately reflect real-life results.
Cablevision is ranked as the fastest ISP, but with only 16 samples, I would personally throw that result out. It’s not a large enough sample rate. Number two, with 49 samples, is Charter Communications, with a REAL throughput of 9137 kbps down and 2675 kbps up. Next comes Time Warner Cable’s Roadrunner service, with 114 samples returning average bandwidth testing of 9050 down and 1335 up. Next comes Canada’s Roger’s Communications, but again, the sample size is too small to be fully trusted for ranking. Thus, third in line is Cox Communications, with results of 8405 and 3074.
Photo credit: Philipp Lücke