Google-owned YouTube waded into the ongoing discussion over video streaming quality this week with the launch of a monthly "Video Quality Report." The report tracks the average quality of video streaming available to users of local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), ranking them in one of three categories.
The data is compiled from the billions of monthly YouTube streams, segmented by ISP and geographical location. The rankings are determined by the level of streaming quality available to customers at least 90% of the time.
The top ranking in the report is "YouTube HD Verified," which means that customers should expect smooth playback on YouTube most of the time, even when watching videos in high definition.
The middle ranking is "Standard Definition," which the report describes as average streaming quality. Customers using one of those ISPs should see smooth playback on videos (at least 360p). But there could be occasional interruptions when watching HD videos.
The "Lower Definition" ranking means that customers should experience fuzzy picture quality and frequent interruptions while playing even lower quality videos.
Google launched a similar report for Canadian broadband customers in January, but this was the first time it has provided a similar breakdown for U.S. users.
The video quality report comes on the heels of a very public disagreement between Netflix and Comcast over paid peering arrangements. Both Netflix and Google offer low-performing ISPs caching appliances, which help ISPs smoothly deliver video directly to their customers.
But Comcast and several other large ISPs have declined to host Netlix's free OpenConnect content caching devices and the streaming media company was recently forced to sign a paid peering arrangement with Comcast.
Google offers a similar free caching appliance called the Google Global Cache, but it's not clear if it has entered into any paid peering arrangements with ISPs. A YouTube spokesperson did provide this very vague explanation to GigaOM, which implies that Google has made at least some deals similar to the Netflix/Comcast agreement:
"We don’t talk about individual arrangements. Free peering arrangements are the industry norm, since it’s a win-win for all parties, and that’s the way the vast majority of our agreements work. In limited cases, additional resources are needed to set up the peering, and some money may be involved as part of the business arrangement. But Google has never asked for preferential treatment of traffic, and we always work to reduce ISPs’ costs by interconnecting or deploying caching infrastructure as close to ISPs’ viewers as possible."
Here is a breakdown of YouTube's ranking of broadband providers serving Minnesota customers. As you might expect, individual customer experiences may vary, depending on the neighborhood bandwidth, equipment and other factors.
Paul Bunyan Communications
West Central Telephone Association
Benton Cooperative Telecom
Consolidated Telephone Company
Garden Valley Telephone Company
Johnson Telephone Company
Radio Link Internet
Woodstock Telephone Company