AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint guilty of throttling video, study says

9 September 2018 by Steve Blum
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U.S. mobile broadband companies throttle video streams, according to research recently published by Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After looking at data from 100,000 consumers who voluntarily downloaded a monitoring app – Wehe – the researchers identified tens of thousands of instances where video was delivered at a slower speed than other data traffic.

As related in a Bloomberg article by Olga Kharif, the big online video platforms were hit hard…

Among U.S. wireless carriers, YouTube is the No. 1 target of throttling, where data speeds are slowed, according to the data. Netflix Inc.’s video streaming service, Inc.’s Prime Video and the NBC Sports app have been degraded in similar ways, according to David Choffnes, one of the study’s authors who developed the Wehe app.

From January through early May, the app detected “differentiation” by Verizon Communications Inc. more than 11,100 times, according to the study. This is when a type of traffic on a network is treated differently than other types of traffic. Most of this activity is throttling.

AT&T Inc. did this 8,398 times and it was spotted almost 3,900 times on the network of T-Mobile US Inc. and 339 times on Sprint Corp.’s network, the study found.

The response from the mobile carriers amounted to a wave of the hand and these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. But slowing down only one type of data is, in fact, “impairing or degrading lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content”. That’s the definition of throttling contained in California senate bill 822, which will ban the practice if governor Jerry Brown signs it into law.

It’s also directly at odds with the categorical statement made by AT&T’s chief Sacramento lobbyist as he railed against the bill at a committee hearing in June. “We do not degrade Internet traffic”, claimed Bill Devine, who wasn’t otherwise constrained by facts during his testimony.

As I’ve written before, the argument against net neutrality rules offered by cable and telephone companies amounts to trust us. The data says we can’t.