Over the past few years as online videos have become more and more frequently watched and with higher quality, users have begun to notice that their ISPs are restricting their video viewing capabilities. Some of the most notable ones are with Google’s own YouTube service, especially considering how many billions of minutes worth of video are consumed by YouTube users daily. As Google fights to improve the experience of YouTube, they have come to the realization that part of the problem lies within the CDNs and ISPs and how both handle YouTube traffic.
Sure, many of these ISPs need to control how much traffic each user is consuming at any given time, but for a user such as myself to be waiting for YouTube to buffer on a 55 Mbps connection is ludicrous. Sure, YouTube has its slow moments, but the truth is that 55 Mbps (on TimeWarner Cable) should amount to around 7 MB/s in download throughput. Also, keep in mind that YouTube’s 4K video codec does not consume more than that at any given time and from my own testing YouTube’s 4K content pushes an average of 20 Mbps, less than half of what my internet connection is capable of at a sustained rate. Sure, some ISPs guarantee ‘up to’ 55 Mbps, but in many cases my sustained download speed surpass that number, so that isn’t the case for me. Either way, my internet provider is more than capable of delivering 4K at 20 Mbps and yet there are times when 1080P videos have problems loading.
So, Google has devised a video quality report based on a series of tests using a specific methodology that combines your real world experiences with what kind of speeds were available to you during those times. Your ISP’s connection will be ranked into three general categories: YouTube HD Verified which states that you should be able to watch videos in HD (at least 720p) with quick load times. Standard Definition: You should be able to watch videos in Standard Definition (at least 360p) with moderate load times. Lower Definition: The video will play back in resolution lower than 360p, will load slowly, and may stop to re-buffer.
And now with the murky waters created by the Net Neutraily court decision, some ISPs may become even more aggressive in throttling internet video traffic that isn’t their own. Google’s goal, I believe, is to shame ISPs into providing better service and giving the ‘troublesome’ ISPs and CDNs black marks on their name to clean up their acts. I’m not sure how effective this will be, but consumers really should have the ability to know exactly how fast their internet really is and how much throttling their ISPs are doing. Furthermore, I hope that we’ll see more services like Amazon will follow in Netflix’s and now Google’s footsteps so that consumers are properly educated about exactly what their ISPs are doing. And even more so, so that consumers know exactly whether or not they’re getting what they pay for.