Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T throttle YouTube or Netflix all the time, does it matter?

Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T throttle YouTube or Netflix all the time, does it matter?
If you have been wondering what all those video definition tiers in Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint data plan prices mean, there is one word to explain them - throttling. Video streaming is a hot commodity on any carrier, and if they want to keep the network quality decent for everybody, data-guzzling streamers have to be throttled.

At least this is the explanation usually given by carriers. A new research sheds light on the fact that US carriers are actually throttling streaming video services like Netflix, YouTube or Amazon Prime at all times, albeit in different ways. 

Last June, the FCC rolled back some throttling regulations for the chagrin of the net neutrality proponents, and yet limiting video streaming data speeds has been happening on US carriers well before that, the research showed. The table below shows the country, carrier, and the type of streamer services they throttle.


Of course, restricting video streaming speeds and hence quality, is just another way for carriers to differentiate their different plan tier prices, so we wouldn't read much more than that in the conclusions of the study. 

What's more interesting, however, is how they throttle, or why some services get preferential treatment. T-Mobile caps the streaming speeds of services like Amazon Prime, NBC, Netflix or YouTube, but rarely Vimeo and never Skype, for instance. Also, some apps like Netflix or NBC Sports get delayed throttling, whereas YouTube is capped from the start.

AT&T, on the other hand, lets Amazon Prime or Vimeo run free, but aggressively throttles Netflix and YouTube. Verizon was the most consistent of them all, with all streaming apps falling under two different rates of throttling - 2 or 4 Mbps - that can easily be attributed to the different features in its more expensive data plans that allow HD streaming. The final takeaway in the study? We are listing it below:


To summarize, all carriers throttle all the time but low-quality footage is usually due to the streaming service app's own resolution settings, not the lack of bandwidth, so as long as you enjoy your videos on the go there's no need to get triggered by the word "throttling". Do you agree with the research conclusion?

Carriers throttle video all the time, does that bother you?

No, my video streams work just fine
32.23%
Yes, video quality shouldn't be capped by price tiers
67.77%

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14 Comments

1. TheOracle1

Posts: 2282; Member since: May 04, 2015

It doesn't bother me at all. Streaming on a phone isn't ideal in the first place and 480p or 720p is adequate on such a small screen. Plus there are so many Wi-Fi hotspots available it's a non-issue.

2. KingSam

Posts: 1450; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

I wish my country offered unlimited to begin with...

7. LAgurl

Posts: 103; Member since: Dec 05, 2018

The Oracle maybe in your area but here in Los Angeles CA yes it's a big city BUT GOOD LUCK finding a working decent wifi . ...Starbucks and McDonald's have very crappy wifi can berly load webpages so videos are impossible And if u find a wifi signal out in the street they are all locked even in places like libraries u gotta go ask them to unlock it and they all slow also . So u gotta watch videos over 4G wether they throttled or not .. I'm glad I still have my grandfathered unlimited plan !

9. TheOracle1

Posts: 2282; Member since: May 04, 2015

Fair points there. But do you walk or drive around watching movies on a tiny phone screen all day? Does it have to be in 1080p or 2k? Other than watching video clips or streaming some live tv once in a while when I'm out, I don't need a super fast connection. 1-2mbps is plenty for 720p to be super sharp on my 6.6 inch screen.

12. kevv2288

Posts: 295; Member since: Jul 30, 2015

If you're streaming sports, you can definitely see the difference between 720p 60fps and 480p 30 on any screen.

3. oldskool50

Posts: 1570; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

So basically they throttle the apps that seem to be used most on their network. You think Vimeo and Amazon Prime are as popular as Netflix? So what is they do. Has it cause any buffering? First off, if you are using 4G to watch movies, then that is dumb to begin with. That is what services like Comcast is for. An occasional video on YT is only because they are short. Bit Netflix and amazon have full length movies. When you have 100M subscribers on your network like Verizon does, you have to keep it of equal quality to everyone. These stupid losers who csnt never put their phones down and watch video s 24/7 are the problem and they need to be throttled. Too bad the rest of us have to suffer with them.

10. oldskool50

Posts: 1570; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

And the stupid losers who csnt argue your point, so they want to be the grammar police. You aren't a teacher bruh. Even if you were I don't care. But you're not much teacher. So buzz off "Bee", you bother me.

4. DarthJarJar

Posts: 61; Member since: Feb 01, 2018

So they throttle it because we use them. Throttling shouldn’t even be a thing if they advertise unlimited. Might as well offer unlimited talk and then add “Calls may not connect if over 100 minutes are used”

5. andrewc31394

Posts: 295; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

and yet they're all rushing to launch 5G and price gouge us further while keeping services throttled in the US.....nice job FCC.

13. shaneg79

Posts: 4; Member since: Oct 01, 2017

If you use a VPN you won't be throttled because they won't know what you're doing online.

14. kevv2288

Posts: 295; Member since: Jul 30, 2015

VPN's are overrated. Free ones suck and not worth paying to use one on mobile.

15. DarthJarJar

Posts: 61; Member since: Feb 01, 2018

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

16. shaneg79

Posts: 4; Member since: Oct 01, 2017

I pay for one that I use on pc and android box works well!

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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