Is your Internet service provider "YouTube HD Verified"?
Like Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) before it, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is now ranking ISPs on their ability to deliver high-quality video streams. As first reported by Quartz, the YouTube parent company has created a Video Quality Report. If a user starts to experience poor video playback, Google pops up an alert prompting the viewer to "find out why." The link in the alert leads to a page with localized video streaming quality results. ISPs are listed as HD Verified, or sufficient for Standard Definition or Lower Definition streaming.
The Google approach is more benign than Netflix's recent attempt to blame ISPs directly for poor video quality, a practice that drew the legal ire of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). Netflix has since stopped naming ISPs as the cause of video problems, but it still maintains the Netflix ISP Speed Index. (See Verizon Threatens to Sue Netflix and Netflix Hearts Google Fiber.)
In Google's case, the company emphasizes "there are many factors that influence your video streaming quality, including your choice of Internet Service Provider (ISP)." Google goes on to say that it does its part to improve video quality by using adaptive bit rate streaming, caching strategies, interconnection agreements, and compression technologies. However, Google continues, ISPs must also ensure quality streaming when they carry YouTube video across their networks to users' homes. The company acknowledges that video quality can also be affected by a user's specific broadband connection and in-home WiFi conditions.
In the Video Quality Report, Google certifies that ratings represent "the video streaming quality you can expect (at least 90% of the time) when you watch YouTube on an Internet Service Provider in a specific area."
Although Google makes an effort explain the numerous factors that contribute to online video quality, the new YouTube rankings are a way to shine a spotlight directly on ISPs for the role they play in over-the-top video delivery. The move suggests a growing tension between content providers and ISPs, and likely signals new net neutrality fights on the horizon.
There is already discussion about whether content providers should pay ISPs for better last-mile video delivery. Known as "paid prioritization" or Internet "fast lanes," the pay-to-play approach is currently under scrutiny by the FCC. (See FCC's 'Middle Ground' Already Under Attack and Comcast's Cohen: Define Internet Fast Lanes.)
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading