Slow Netflix, YouTube streaming? Big telcos quizzed over bandwidth throttling

Senators tackle AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile for answers about alleged video traffic throttling.

US four big telcos are slowing down popular video apps, research finds

Three Democrat senators have sent a letter to the CEOs of four major mobile carriers seeking responses to recent research that found widespread throttling of video content.

The joint letter from Senators Edward J Markey, D-Mass, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore, aims to establish whether AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are violating net-neutrality rules.

In September, Northeastern University assistant professor Dave Choffnes used the app Wehe to investigate whether wireless carriers were throttling specific traffic. The Wehe app, which has about 100,000 users, detects whether traffic for specific apps is being differentiated.

He found that the four carriers are slowing down traffic from popular video apps including Netflix, NBC Sports, YouTube, and Amazon Prime.

Carriers are allowed to throttle traffic for network management under today's FCC regulations, but they must disclose it to consumers.

Citing Choffnes' findings, the senators write that "such practices would violate the principles of net neutrality and unfairly treat consumers who are unaware that their carriers are selecting which services receive faster or slower treatment".

"All online traffic should be treated equally, and internet service providers should not discriminate against particular content or applications for competitive advantage purposes or otherwise," the Senators wrote.

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

The senators have requested each carrier respond to its list of questions by December 6.

The carriers are expected to provide a list of apps subjected to traffic discrimination, confirm when the practice started, and explain why certain traffic is being discriminated.

The senators want to know whether consumers can opt in or out of traffic differentiation and whether the practice is outlined in a contract.

They also want to know which traffic is put in a fast or slow lane, and whether it's based on content, behavior, or IP address.

As noted by Ars Technica, telecoms industry group CTIA last month posted an analysis of the Wehe research, labeling it "misleading".

According to CTIA, the Wehe app was not detecting traffic differentiation by carriers but "basic wireless network management (based on consumer choice) or data-management practices used by content providers".

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