Which ISP sucks least?

As Amazon, Hulu add to video traffic, Netflix data sorts performance by ISPs

Comcast is the highest-profile villain in the war ISPs and carriers are waging on their customers who want to use the Internet for more than email and services fed by their ISP.

Its two-year-long policy of throttling Netflix traffic flowing across its backbone to keep Netflix customers from swamping its network by using a significant percentage of the bandwidth for which they were paying landed it in court to answer for its crimes.

The court agreed with Comcast, before throwing an arm over its shoulder and elbowing aside those hippy consumer advocates so the two could head off to the Fat Cat bar to drink martinis, oppress minorities and tell offensive jokes that are mostly not even funny.

Comcast left early to figure out a way to violate the very nearly nonexistent restrictions the FCC put on the industry, this time by forcing customers to buy cable modems from it rather than better, cheaper ones from third parties. (As far as I can tell it hasn't answered those charges, which were made by the Consumers Union; one must presume it went back to the bar, though it may still be trying to work through a few issues remaining after its acquisition of NBC to dominate the world. Mostly it's construction delays on the volcano over the evil-scientist lair and some resistance from the sharks, who would rather use the frickin' lasers on their head to get a hot meal after 450 million years of sushi.)

Despite the failure of the FCC to protect the 'net or the consumers to which it's responsible, Netflix appears to be carrying on, and even having some weight added to its cause from a competitor.

Amazon announced plans to offer streaming video to Prime customers, which should help make it a little more clear that it's not just a few Netflix customers and occasional Hulu fans who want the 'net to be open.

Either way, the carriers all have their problems in supporting streaming video, not all of which are caused by technical problems.

The simplest way to detect throttling is when it's happening just to one person or business, or when a carrier admits to it as a corporate strategy.

Cutting right between those two -- with evidence of how video performs across a number of users broad enough to give a good idea of how well each carrier supports it -- Netflix has posted a chart showing how its movies perform on various ISPs.

It's more fair than most of the carriers wanting to throttle it. Verizon scores fairly low, but Netflix notes that it also has the largest number of customers with lower-bandwidth DSL connections, which bring down overall performance.

And, despite the throttling, Comcast was right up near the top for the period between Oct. 10, 2010 and Jan. 15.

Maybe it's got something more going for it than the sharks.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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