The Shame Game: YouTube Launches ISP Quality Report

By Tara Seals July 07, 2014

Streaming video and ISPs are inextricably linked when it comes to bandwidth consumption, with online video driving consumers to higher tiers of Internet service to accommodate their habits. That said, ISPs are notoriously persnickety when it comes to peering for video, claiming that their costs and infrastructure improvement requirements to handle the video onslaught far outweigh any subscriber boon.

Over-the-top (OTT) video providers have been complaining that slow loading times and excess buffering are the results of ISPs not adequately planning for video requirements—and are taking their message to the streets. For instance, YouTube has begun a consumer initiative that displays a pop-up box if video quality suffers. It prompts users to click to discover the reason behind quality issues, using the “Google Video Quality Report," which rates ISPs on their streaming quality. The idea of course is to gain leverage through consumer perception when it comes to support for its content.

The relevant ISP’s traffic results are listed as falling into three buckets: HD Verified, standard definition, or lower definition. HD Verified can handle high definition content (defined as 720p and above) with smooth playback, while standard definition streams 360p videos without interruptions, and lower Definition supports videos under 360p with the low quality to match. The report shows how many of each were supported by one’s ISP in the last 24-hour period.

“There are many factors that influence your video streaming quality, including your choice of Internet Service Provider (ISP),” the report notes. “Learn how your ISP performs and understand your options.” It also includes a tab for comparing performance between the options in a given area.

YouTube is following well-worn footsteps. Using statistics on Internet speeds has also become a high-profile weapon for Netflix, which uses the information to essentially publically shame ISPs that aren’t up to snuff. It also publishes a monthly speed index showing which ISPs provide the best quality of experience for Netflix streaming video (and which ones are the worst). Starting in May though, Netflix ramped up its rhetoric: If video takes too long to buffer when streaming, customers also get an on-screen message blaming the relevant ISP for network congestion. That move earned it a cease-and-desist letter from Verizon Communications demanding that Netflix stop sending such messages to its customers, and requested a list of Verizon ISP customers that Netflix has contacted so far. Netflix complied—with some grumbling.



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