Last month, there was a widespread public outcry when it was discovered that Verizon had throttled the internet connection of the Santa Clara County Fire Department during the California wildfires. Firefighters depend on up-to-the-second updates about these fast-moving wildfires, and the Santa Clara County Fire Department had to pay double in order to get Verizon to stop throttling, or slowing, their connection. Now, it seems the connection throttling doesn’t stop there. According to a new report, America’s largest U.S. mobile telecom providers are intentionally slowing internet traffic to and from streaming services like YouTube and Netflix. Why would telecom companies do this?
This new report is based on new research from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Researchers developed a special app called Wehe to detect whenever telecom networks treated some connections differently than others, usually when they appear to be slowing them down. According to their research, YouTube gets throttled the most, followed by Netflix, Amazon Prime, and NBC Sports, Bloomberg reports.
Among the carriers who intentionally slow their customers’ connections, Verizon was the guiltiest with over 11,000 suspicious traffic differentiations, followed by AT&T with around 9,000.
These telecom companies claim they throttle users’ connections in order to manage the massive amounts of data which get sent over their networks. When so many customers are streaming at once, sacrifices in speed must be made, so their argument goes.
“We do not automatically throttle any customers,” said Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman. “To manage traffic on our network, we implement network management, which is significantly different than blanket throttling.”
These types of actions are exactly what net neutrality proponents warned of last year when telecom companies began lobbying the FCC to roll back net neutrality regulations. Those regulations were officially repealed by the FCC last year under Chairman Ajit Pai. Net neutrality opponents are now pushing consumers to use apps like Wehe to try and keep their ISPs honest.
Can the little guy stand up to the telecom industry, or are all we all headed for slower streaming speeds in light of the stripping away of net neutrality laws?