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YouTube Starts Rating U.S. ISPs’ Video-Streaming Quality

Tool is similar to Netflix's ISP Speed Index, aimed at pushing broadband providers to support HD videos

Google has launched a tool telling YouTube users in the U.S. how well their Internet service provider can deliver videos, a strategy similar to Netflix’s ISP speed rankings aimed at spurring broadband providers to allocate enough bandwidth for HD streaming.

The Google Video Quality Report shows ISP quality in three levels: “HD Verified,” meaning the provider supports streaming resolution of at least 720p without buffering or interruptions; “Standard Definition,” for resolution of at least 360p; and “Lower Definition” if videos load slowly or frequently buffer at resolutions lower than 360p.

The report also shows video quality for other ISPs in a user’s geographic area — a subtle hint to suggest that consumers could switch if their provider isn’t up to snuff.

“If you’re regularly seeing videos buffer, this report can give you a better idea of why, as well as tips to make YouTube play better,” YouTube product manager Jay Akkad wrote in a blog post. Google launched the video-quality report for Canadian ISPs earlier this year.

Netflix and YouTube are the two biggest sources of peak-period bandwidth usage in North American broadband networks, accounting for 34% and 13%, respectively, of downstream traffic in March 2014, according to Sandvine.

Netflix’s ISP Speed Index ranks broadband providers according to the average speed experienced by the company’s customers.

As Internet-video streaming continues to surge, content providers are butting heads with ISPs about how to pay for delivering the bits.

Netflix recently agreed — reluctantly — to pay for direct connections into Comcast and Verizon networks. But the company believes such payments amount to an unfair “toll,” and CEO Reed Hastings has called for a form of “strong” net neutrality that would forbid paid-peering agreements.

Comcast and Verizon claim such deals are a standard part of the Internet marketplace and are necessary to fairly apportion costs. Google has entered into paid-peering deals in some cases, while the company says most of its agreements with ISPs are settlement-free.

Watch a video about Google’s ISP quality rating system:

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