YouTube: Slow Buffering Is Totally Your ISP’s Fault

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YouTube wants you to know that if you’re experiencing playback issues, blurring video or excessive buffering, it’s probably your Internet service provider’s fault.

Taking a cue from Netflix, YouTube has initiated its own Video Quality Report to let users know what type of performance they get from their ISP.

YouTube initially rolled out the Video Quality Report at the end of May, along with a video explaining why YouTube-suckage is totally not YouTube’s fault. Mashable covered the survey’s initial rollout, but what makes this worth revisiting is an additional detail noticed by Quartz.

It isn’t clear how long these banners have been around, but a Google Help article does exist for the banners; their appearance is reminiscent of some of the shade Netflix threw at Verizon last month. At the time, Netflix started showing messages to certain ISP users, which put the blame on slow video buffering directly on their ISP.

Verizon responded by sending Netflix a cease and desist letter over the messages. With Netflix and Verizon, the drama also includes lots of back and forth over issues related to paid peering deals. Netflix has agreed to pay ISPs, such as Comcast and Verizon, to ensure better throughput between the two network systems.

Although YouTube has long had its own free peering agreements with ISPs, we’re not aware of any paid peering deals for YouTube that have become public. In June, the Federal Communications Commission said it will try to obtain any details of deals between ISPs and content providers — including YouTube.
Buffered streams are bad for business

Although YouTube’s name and shame campaign against ISPs is fairly mild compared to that of Netflix, the very fact that the video service finds it necessary to alert users about how Internet traffic and interconnected networks function is telling.

With more and more video content delivered over-the-top (that is, over the Internet), the quality of that video stream becomes increasingly important. When quality fails, users are quick to blame the content source — especially if other websites seem to work just fine.

If a user experiences downtime and buffering from a service or site too many times, he or she will be less likely to use it. Content services want to be shielded from some of that blame, and pass it off to what they see as the ultimate gatekeeper: the ISP.

The real question is: Does this naming and shaming really have any impact? It would be one thing if users could pick and choose their ISP, but most of us have one choice and one choice only (the same is true for cable TV).


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