Google Calls Out the ISPs: It Isn't Just The Bandwidth to Your House That Makes YouTube Videos Crummy

First Netflix embarrassed the ISPs with speed rankingsShowing how the broadband providers (like Comcast) were choosing to downgrade delivery of Netflix.

Now YouTube's parent company, Google, has apparently decided they too can push back at the companies that are choosing to throttle delivery of HD video.

According to a May 29th, 2014 article in Variety, YouTube has begun offering a free tool, known as the Video Quality Report, for US customers to see how Internet service providers are allocating bandwidth for HD streaming.

Hint: It isn't just the capacity of any one pipe ("cable providers could offer gigabit bandwidth with today's DOCSIS 3.0 equipment if they really wanted") or the number of bars showing on your mobile device that determines whether your videos play poorly. In other words, it isn't just "capacity" but what broadband professionals call "capacity management."

The awful quality of the video playing on your laptop or iPhone?

It may be the result of a business decision made by your ISP. 

Broadband cable service costs "three times as much [in the US] as in the UK and France, and more than five times as much as in South Korea." For example, the average Comcast subscriber pays the company around US$160 per monthBut paying a lot for broadband service doesn't mean you'll get the best quality streaming that Comcast can currently offer.

Even though some people will tell you it's the bandwidth (without telling you about the expansion of content delivery networks and local caching technologies that use real-time algorithms, which can reduce the need for new long-haul capacity by storing today's most popular content - like most-played videos - closer to the end-users), it's clear that bandwidth isn't the only issue. Some of the quality issues with video streaming right now can be traced back to greed. 

The ISPs could provide better video quality with the capacity they have right now... But they want to get more money for that.

Comcast (for example) recently decided that Netflix should pay a premium for Netflix movies to stream reliably to Comcast customers.

So (even though consumers were already paying Comcast a lot of money based on promises of a high speed internet connection), Comcast began selectively choosing not to deliver the quality of video their system could already comfortably carry to consumers.

They could give you better video. But, until they were paid twice (one by you and once by Netflix), they wouldn't.


In late 2013 Comcast systematically degraded the quality of Netflix video streaming. They slowed down Netflix - providing a crummier service to  the people paying for Comcast - until Netflix paid a premium. Then the quality of the Netflix experience on Comcast shot up. 

The pipes didn't change. Comcast just decided to mess with Netflix until they paid more... 

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