Peering deals speed up U.S. Netflix streams, but European ISPs still a lot faster

Good news for FIOS customers: Verizon’s fiber network is now officially the fastest way to access Netflix in the U.S., at least if you discount regional ISPs with smaller footprints like Google Fiber. Verizon customers streamed their movies and TV shows with 3.17 Mbps of bandwidth on average, according to Netflix’s latest ISP speed index.

That’s a huge improvement over previous months: In July, the average FIOS stream was at just 1.61 Mbps. [company]Netflix[/company] and [company]Verizon[/company] improved the experience for FIOS customers dramatically with a commercial peering agreement that lets Netflix directly interconnect with Verizon in exchange for some hard cold cash. Netflix has struck similar agreements with [company]Comcast[/company], [company]AT&T[/company] and [company]Time Warner Cable[/company], but at the same time publicly insisted that it shouldn’t have to pay ISPs for peering.

And even with these agreements, U.S. ISPs are still performing significantly worse than their European counterparts. Across all of Netflix’s markets, U.S. ISPs currently rank 14th, and fall behind not only Canada, but also every single European country that Netflix is operating in.

Netflix’s fastest average speeds were in Switzerland with 3.81 Mbps, with Belgium coming in second with 3.77 Mbps and streams in Austria average 3.66 Mbps. The average U.S. Netflix stream on the other hand was 2.72 Mbps in September.

As always, it’s worth pointing out that these averages are not only influenced by the type of content viewers access, but also the devices they are using, with SD streams consuming less data than HD streams, and streaming to mobile devices typically being less consuming than streaming to 1080p TV sets.

But it looks like Netflix has prepared itself for its recent European expansion to avoid any slow-downs similar to those that affected customers of many U.S. ISPs earlier this year. The company has struck broad agreements with European ISPs, which often include putting Netflix’s app on their set-top boxes, and a source within the French ISP community told me that Netflix is directly peering with Orange with a capacity of approximately 50 Gbps.