Which high-speed Internet service delivers the most consistent high-definition quality service in the Raleigh area? AT&T’s U-verse, says a new rankings system launched by Google-owned YouTube.

While “speed meters” to measure data deliver by Internet Service Providers are common, the YouTube system considers only video and the quality of the pictures being delivered.

In the race to bring ultrafast, or “gigabit” Internet speed, to the Triangle both AT&T (with “GigaPower”) and Google (“Google Fiber”) are the early leaders along with RST Fiber in Shelby, N.C.

AT&T delivers “HD verified” high-definition video “at least 90 percent or more of the time,” says the new YouTube service.

Time Warner Cable, AT&T’s own non-U-verse offerings and other competitors in the high-speed Internet service market all were rated “SD verified,” which means standard definition video is delivered at “moderate” speeds at least 90 percent of the time.

For example, between 9-10 p.m., U-verse delivers 88 percent high-definition quality video streams while Time Warner Cable delivers 78 percent, according to the YouTube data. (Two charts included with this story show those statistics.)

Little buffering, or delays, in video delivery is expected at the “HD” level but buffering does occur at “SD” level, says YouTube.

Also receiving “SD” ratings were:

  • CenturyLink
  • Windstream
  • DirecPath
  • Verizon

The online website reporting the data, which became widely available this week, is geo-specific. In other words, Internet users logging in from a Raleigh location are guided to Raleigh-specific data. However, users can pick other locations to measure performance.

In Durham, no provider received an “HD” rating. U-verse is not available in that market, according to the YouTube list of providers.

The YouTube data is based on a 30-day average.

YouTube and entertainment service NetFlix rely on Internet Service Providers to deliver their videos to end users. 

On the YouTube site, the Google division points out not only its methodology but also has a section devoted to “A Faster Web.”

Google has its own major stake in high-speed Internet with the rollout of its Google Fiber network in Kansas City and other locations.

The Research Triangle area is on a recently expanded Google Fiber target list for deployment, and cities including Raleigh as well as Cary have met early benchmarks set by Google Fiber for deployment. Among those requirements is an agreement for Google to lease public property for the construction of so-called “fiber huts” to house its fiber-optic network equipment.

AT&T, interestingly, has targeted the Triangle as one of its early deployment areas as well. Its U-verse offerings have also received the endorsement of the North Carolina Next Generation Consortium, a group of universities and municipalities seeking a private sector-owned ultrafast Internet service across the Triangle and parts of the Triad.

Here is how YouTube defines its ratings:

  • YouTube HD Verified: You should be able to watch YouTube videos in HD (at least 720p) with quick load times.
  • Standard Definition: You should be able to watch YouTube videos in Standard Definition (at least 360p) with moderate load times.
  • Lower Definition: The YouTube video will play back in resolution lower than 360p, will load slowly, and may stop to re-buffer.