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What you should know about the new Google video quality report

Google is at it again. They are working hard to help make the Internet better, faster, and more reliable. Earlier this year they released their “video quality report”. It allows users to see how their ISPs are performing when it comes to delivering YouTube videos in HD. That sounds quite simple and helpful right?

Yes, it does. But it also isn’t everything it seems to be.

Currently the reports are available in the US and Canada, but Google says they are rolling them out to other countries over time. It isn’t available in the UK yet, so hopefully this blog will give you something to think about when it finally makes it here.

The Google report only focuses on the quality of YouTube video. I said it again just in case you missed it in the first paragraph. The report certifies your ISP as “HD Verified” if it can play YouTube videos in HD at least 90% of the time. The results look like this sample from the US (since you can’t get one in the UK yet).

google video quality report

You can see the average stream quality over the course of 24 hours in the report. Make a note that the activity is averaged over a 30 day period. And of course, there is a caveat that “individual results may vary”.

Probably the most important thing to know about this chart though, is that it is only valid for YouTube traffic. If you don’t stream videos from YouTube, your ISP experience can be totally different. But logically, if there is bandwidth for HD YouTube videos, then there should be plenty for other stuff too right? Maybe not.

In a report last May, YouTube accounted for about 19.27% of fixed (non-mobile) peak internet download traffic in Europe according to Sandvine. It accounts for 19.9% of the traffic in the UK. That’s a lot of traffic. So, Google isn’t crazy thinking that YouTube is a good standard to go by when determining what capabilities your ISP has. But if you reverse those statistics, 80.1% of traffic in the UK isn’t YouTube.

So is it fair to label your ISP “HD verified” or not just because of YouTube traffic? Probably not. There are a lot of factors that go into delivering video to your home computer or mobile device. Your ISP is just one of them.

But the real problem with the label and the report is that it doesn’t really reflect your ISPs full capabilities. Your ISP can be blazing fast for standard web surfing, email, or even games but it might fall short when it comes to HD video from YouTube. If you don’t watch videos from YouTube then it doesn’t matter if your ISP is HD verified or not. If you watch video from other services like Netflix (who ranks second in terms of the percentage of Internet download traffic it uses in the UK) then the rating might or might not reflect your ability to play HD videos. It all depends on factors outside of your ISP like how Netflix delivers its content to your ISP.

It all boils down to not putting too much stock into the new Google video quality report and the ratings it assigns. The results of the report are just one more data point you can use in deciding if your ISP is doing well enough for you, or if it is time to look for a different one with better performance.

When it finally comes to the UK, you can find the report for your location by Googling “Google video quality report”. You may also find a link provided by Google if you’re watching a YouTube video that is having problems. But don’t be surprised if you click on that link and find out that your ISP is HD verified and you’re still having problems. Because the data is averaged over 30 days, you’re not likely to see any temporary interruptions causing your current problem. If that’s the case, either check with your ISP to see if they are reporting issues or visit another website designed for testing the speed of your internet access. Speedtest.net is one of the better ones available and it will also let you see what others in your area are experiencing based on historical data.

Oliver Burt

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