Senators Seek Information on Carrier Throttling Practices
Friday, November 16, 2018 | Comments

Three U.S. senators sent letters to the CEOs of the four major commercial carriers seeking information on each company’s throttling practices.

The letters from Sens. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ron Wyden of Oregon went to AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, Sprint CEO Michel Combes, T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.

The senators expressed concern that mobile carriers are throttling and prioritizing internet traffic from common mobile apps without consumers’ knowledge.

“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,” the senators said in the letters. “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.”

Researchers developed an app called WeHe to detect when an internet service provider (ISP) treats a web service different from other services. A study conducted using the app showed that nearly every cellular ISP in the U.S. throttles at least one streaming video provider, the letters said.

The senators asked each company to answer whether it practiced throttling of any kind and other questions related to the practice including:
• Which applications or services are subject to traffic discrimination on its network?
• When did the company put into practice policies to throttle or prioritize internet traffic for consumers? What is the purpose of those policies?
• Are customers informed about the different treatment of internet traffic, particularly video or communications services? If so, how? If not, why?
• Are customers able to opt-in or opt-out of traffic differentiation? Does a customer’s choice change the price or affect their service, such as data allocation or requiring a different plan?
• Are traffic differentiation policies based on a consumers’ contract or brand of service?
• How do you determine which network traffic receives faster or slower treatment? Is it based on content, behavior or IP address?
• Are applications or services provided notice regarding the throttling of their customers using the network? Does the company provide such companies the ability to avoid traffic discrimination and if so, under what financial and operational conditions?
• Does the company engage in throttling or prioritization of services for subscribers of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that use the network? Are those MVNOs aware of such throttling or prioritization?

The letters requested that each company respond to the questions by Dec. 6.

Earlier this year, Santa Clara Fire Chief Anthony Bowden in a court brief over net neutrality said Verizon throttled the county’s data speeds during a major wildfire. Several days later, Verizon said it would remove restrictions on public-safety customers in the event of a disaster and also introduced new unlimited data plans for first responders.

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