Google is rating the quality of video streaming services offered by Internet service providers on a new website, the latest development in the fight between broadband providers and content companies over who is to blame for slow streaming speeds.
It is not the first content company to send a message directly to consumers about their Internet service providers. In June, Netflix told its customers that Verizon and other Internet providers were to blame for slow speeds.
The latest move comes amid a showdown between Internet service providers and open Internet advocates, who call for Web traffic to be treated like phone traffic, with no premium fast lanes and slow lanes. To some, this Net neutrality debate cuts to the core of keeping the Internet as a forum for free speech instead of having it throttled by profit-motivated corporations.
But the debate also pulls in companies, like Google, that rely on its users' ability to access websites speedily.
A link to the new site appears when videos on YouTube, Google's streaming service, are slow to buffer. The website launched quietly in May and recently drew publicity.
"There are many factors that influence your video streaming quality, including your choice of Internet service provider (ISP). Learn how your ISP performs and understand your options," the website reads.
Google measures how quickly billions of YouTube videos load, breaks out Internet service providers and locations, averages those results over the last 30 days and determine the performance quality that viewers get 90 percent of the time, the company said.
The website is intended to inform customers who want to view video in high definition of the best way to get it, said Matt McLernon, a YouTube spokesman. "We are just basically providing information, not trying to tell people to change their behavior or do anything different," he said.
On the website, customers can compare the performance of ISPs in their area.
Last month the U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced it would investigate agreements between ISPs and content companies to determine whether they are causing slow speeds.
Netflix has been calling on the FCC to do away with fees that content companies pay to ISPs for smooth delivery of their services to consumers.
The FCC is expected to consider that idea as it seeks public comment on recently proposed Internet traffic rules that suggest content companies should be allowed to strike "commercially reasonable" deals with broadband providers to give priority to their traffic.
Al Jazeera and Reuters