There are some consumers out there who don't understand why there is such a fuss made about net neutrality. These are the Obama-era rules that prevented carriers and ISPs from picking out specific streams of content for special treatment. For example, without net neutrality, carriers/ISPs could get paid to carry some of this content over special "fast lanes," and could decide to throttle or ban other content at their discretion. In June, the Trump-era FDA, led by chairman Ajit Pai, repealed the net neutrality rules.
According to a new report from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, even before the end of net neutrality, carriers have been throttling internet speeds to and from popular mobile video streaming apps like YouTube and Netflix. This data was obtained by researchers by using an app called Wehe, which monitors the streaming services that are the subject of "differentiation." The latter term is used to describe when a wireless carrier treats a particular content stream differently from other streams. Most of the time, this means that the stream in question is being throttled. Approximately 100,000 smartphone users have the app installed on their handsets.
The data reveals that from January through early May, Verizon had a leading 11,000 cases of "differentiation," followed by AT&T (8,398 times), T-Mobile (3,900) and Sprint (339). C Spire, the nation's sixth largest carrier (and the largest privately owned one), had the fewest cases of "differentiation" during the same time period. The streamers most apt to having their content throttled are YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the NBC Sports app.
According to the Wehe app, during one test, Netflix speeds on T-Mobile were 1.77Mbps compared to the 6.62Mbps speed that other T-Mobile network traffic was running at during the same time. Some of the throttling is noted in advance by the wireless operators' Terms of Service agreements. After all, many unlimited plans cap data speed on streaming video, and it says so in the fine print. In addition, unlimited plan users who go over their carriers' monthly data cap could find their data throttled during periods of network congestion.
But experts say that the throttling has picked up since the FCC voted to end net neutrality in December 2017. Meanwhile, California is on the verge of passing a bill that will make net neutrality a law in the state. Other states are in the process of doing the same thing.