Starting today, internet providers in the United States will finally be held to account for lackluster YouTube streaming speeds. Google has brought its Video Quality Report — first launched in Canada at the start of this year — to the US, and is now ranking ISPs like Cablevision and Verizon FiOS based on the fidelity of their YouTube streams. If you've been experiencing buffering issues or playback interruptions despite paying for a speedy internet connection, this monthly report could help answer the lingering question of why.
"Making sure you can watch YouTube in HD from anywhere, anytime is a shared effort among us, your Internet service provider and even you," the company says. On that last point, Google is offering consumers a number of tips to help boost YouTube performance. That's assuming of course that your chosen ISP and YouTube are on good, cooperative terms. But we're in a different world now. And as Netflix has shown (more than once), ensuring smooth streaming sometimes means pulling out the checkbook.
You'll know which ISPs are faring best because they're labeled as "HD Verified." This means that customers can expect reliable streams of at least 720p; apparently setting the bar at 1080p was too great of a challenge for these companies to meet. More specifics on the methodology YouTube's using to grade ISPs can be found here.
If you can only successfully watch videos at a resolution of 360p, your ISP is offering what YouTube describes as standard definition. But some internet providers are apparently doing even worse than that; the worst designation of "lower definition" is reserved for ISPs plagued by stuttering video and buffering — even when you're trying to watch something at less than 360p quality. The Video Quality Report also lends an interesting look at what time of day YouTube is most popular with other people on your network and in your city. Surprise: many people use it to waste time at work.