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.

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".

Previous and related coverage

FCC's Ajit Pai: Here's why nanny-state California's net-neutrality bill is illegal

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai takes a swipe at California's net-neutrality protections.

Trump administration sues California over 'extreme, illegal' net-neutrality law

California's net-neutrality bill passes into law and gets an immediate challenge from the federal government.

First IoT security bill reaches governor's desk in California

California IoT security bill criticized by security researcher. Expert says bill "is based upon an obviously superficial understanding of the problem."

Senate votes for net neutrality -- enjoy the moment

The US Senate voted 52 to 47 for net neutrality. Now, the question is: Will the House support net neutrality, or will it -- or President Donald Trump -- shovel dirt on net neutrality's grave?

Net neutrality vote: Why all the fuss? Here's my simple fix

Yes, the end of net neutrality is here and everyone has an opinion, statement, or some scenario. The reality is we're just caught in the middle of a Goliath vs Goliath power struggle.

California to introduce "Right to Repair" legislation

Right to repair: California will become the 18th state to introduce legislation so you can fix your electronics yourself.

These 8 tech policy trends will impact the enterprise in a major way in 2018 TechRepublic

Tech leaders should be on the lookout for a shift of regulatory power.

California's 'gold standard' net neutrality bill clears key hurdle CNET

It's come back from being gutted to winning approval in an assembly committee meeting.