Senators Looking Into Reports U.S. Wireless Carriers Are Throttling Video Unnecessarily

AT&T vs. Verizon vs. Sprint vs. T-Mobile

As wireless networks in the United States transitioned back to unlimited data usage, a lot of restrictions were put in place to help temper usage.

We’ve seen wireless networks like AT&T and Verizon change their plans quite a bit over the years. For instance, Verizon at one point was offering an added $10-per-month bundle that added “Premium Video” availability, meaning the big red wireless carrier would stop throttling your speeds and give subscribers access to higher quality content than 720p HD. At the end of the day, though, the wireless networks all have in place rules that will initiate throttling if you reach a certain amount of download usage on a monthly basis.

That’s typically around 22GB per month.

However, it looks like the four major wireless networks in the United States (which could be three, if Sprint and T-Mobile have their way) are facing allegations of throttling video from a wide range of sources whether or not customers are actually reaching any limits on a monthly basis. And now, as was reported this week by Ars Technica, four Senators are investigating those claims. Senators Edward Markey (Mass.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) have sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, asking for a formal explanation regarding the throttling allegations.

“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.”

The Wehe testing platform showed that AT&T is throttling streaming video from NBC Sports, Netflix, and YouTube. Sprint, meanwhile, is reportedly throttling Amazon Prime, Skype video calls, and Netflix. T-Mobile is throttling Amazon Prime, NBC Sports, and Netflix. And, finally, Verizon is throttling Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube. As it stands right now, Sprint has outright denied it is throttling Skype video calls, and AT&T has disputed the whole Wehe testing platform altogether.

Not every plan offered by the major wireless carriers is unlimited, however, and the rules for streaming and limitations are different for each plan. It is possible that the guidelines set by each network can explain away these throttling allegations, and that it actually isn’t affecting folks on unlimited plans that haven’t reached their monthly limit access to high-speed data streaming.

At the same time, if there is any unnecessary throttling going on customers deserve to know, and networks should change their habits. However, the fact that in the United States net neutrality was struck down there aren’t any specific laws in place that can protect customers from unnecessary throttling. The networks do need to disclose their throttling policies, though.

The four major carriers have until December 6 to respond to the Senators’ letters.

[via Ars Technica]