Verizon Reportedly Throttling Streaming Services in “Video Optimization” Tests Without Notice

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Today, reports indicate that Verizon Wireless reduced connection speeds for mobile subscribers accessing streaming video services as part of a “video optimization” systems test. The company issued no warnings to consumers prior to testing, but claims “the customer video experience was not affected”. Verizon has also stated that it applied the same speed cap to its own affiliated video service, Go90.

The Federal Communications Commission’s existing net neutrality rules generally do not permit broadband providers to impose speed caps based on source or application -- a violation referred to as “throttling.” The rules do, however, allow for reasonable network management. As part of a report on Zero Rating released in the final days of the Obama Administration, FCC staff set out relevant criteria to evaluate whether practices like “video optimization” violate the no-throttling rule or if they are “reasonable network management”. On February 3, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rescinded the report.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Broadband subscribers and broadband providers both need certainty about how their broadband service will work. Subscribers need to know they can count on their service to behave reliably as advertised, without discriminating between different applications or between an internet service provider’s affiliated service and a competing service. At the same time, ISPs need to know that tests to improve their system or develop new products won’t be mistaken for by their customers for bad behavior that undermines confidence in the network.

“The guidelines distinguishing ‘throttling’ from ‘reasonable network management’ developed as part of the FCC’s investigation into T-Mobile’s Binge On service provided precisely this certainty. Unfortunately, Chairman Pai’s decision to rescind the report and to reopen the net neutrality proceeding have created massive uncertainty and suspicion.

“Before, Verizon could simply point to the FCC guidelines to reassure their customers. Today, we must look to Chairman Pai to tell us whether subscribers have anything more to rely on than Verizon’s promises. Rather than undermining consumer confidence and creating needless confusion, Chairman Pai should end his misguided efforts to roll back the FCC’s net neutrality rules any further.”

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