How Internet Speeds Affect Watching HD YouTube Videos

Over the past decade, as Internet users watch more YouTube videos and video quality improves, people have started to demand more content in high definition (HD). However, watching HD videos requires a fast enough connection from an Internet service provider (ISP), and not all connections allow YouTube users to watch videos with the picture quality they want.

If you’re one of the people hoping to watch YouTube in HD, it’s important for you to know what speeds are necessary to do this and how you find them.

The importance of internet connection speeds

On average, streaming YouTube videos in HD quality requires a minimum of a 5 to 6 Mbps Internet connection speed, but the faster, the better. An Internet connection slower than the minimum could mean a fuzzy picture, slow downloading, or frequent interruptions while the video buffers.

When you select an Internet plan from your service provider, the advertised Mbps is the maximum speed the connection provides, but it doesn’t mean your connection is always that fast. For example, a 5 Mbps plan may be enough to stream YouTube in HD when your connection is at its peak, but a 10 or 15 Mbps plan (or higher) may work better for consistent HD access that still streams at or above 5 Mbps even when the connection speed slows down.

From there, your home’s ability to receive and share the Internet connection among devices affects the speeds as well. This includes using a cable connection vs. using Wi-Fi; whether you exceed your data cap (if you have one); the types of hardware, software, and software configuration you use; and the number of connected users or devices. If any of these factors are unfavorable for a high-speed Internet connection, then despite your ISP’s ability to deliver HD quality speeds, you may not have access to YouTube in HD.

Average broadband speeds in the U.S.

Ookla, the global leader in broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic applications, produces the Ookla Net Index, a data product that provides millions of verified speed test results from around the globe. The index shows the average download speed for each of the 50 states as well as for countries around the world. The higher the average Internet connection speed in your state, the easier it will be for you to stream HD YouTube videos;  knowing your state’s average connection speed means you’ll have an idea about how readily available this connection is.

The fastest Internet speeds in the U.S. center around the Washington, D.C. to Northeast corridor, including Delaware at the top of the country’s Internet speeds (37.8 Mbps), followed by New Jersey (36.4 Mbps), and Maryland (35.3 Mbps). The rest of the highest Internet speeds are from states across the U.S. with no real trend. These states are most likely to support HD YouTube streaming.

The slowest Internet speeds in the country come from Maine (13.9 Mbps), Montana (14.9 Mbps), and Alaska (16.9 Mbps). In general, the majority of the slowest Internet speeds come from the Midwest and farthest tips of the country. While HD streaming is possible in these states, because the average Internet speed is above the minimum HD streaming requirement, HD content may be fuzzy or intermittent if the Internet speed drops below this average.

You can watch HD YouTube videos without slow download speeds, frustrating buffer interruptions, or a fuzzy picture. Sometimes the answer is simply adjusting your plan with your ISP or changing your Internet habits in your home. If you are having trouble watching the YouTube videos you love in HD, call your ISP to see how you can improve your Internet connection speeds.

Find out how much speed you need with our internet speed test.

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