The Federal Communications Commission should investigate whether Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules by throttling video applications on its mobile network, advocacy group Free Press says.
Free Press is asking people to sign a petition that will be delivered to the FCC.
"Late last week Verizon Wireless customers started to notice something suspicious: Videos from Netflix and YouTube were slow," the call for signatures says. "Verizon Wireless couldn't explain why. When reporters asked the wireless giant to comment, the company first said it was just a temporary network test with no impact on user experience. But Verizon later admitted that, temporary test or not, it was indeed 'optimizing' video streams."
Free Press argues that Verizon's actions violate the FCC's rule against throttling. While the rule has an exemption for "reasonable network management," Free Press argues that slowing down an entire class of applications is not allowed:
The FCC’s Net Neutrality rules clearly state that broadband providers cannot "impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service" unless it's what the agency calls “reasonable network management” for a legitimate technical purpose. Slowing down an entire class of applications, such as all video, would violate this no-throttling rule.
Slowing down video, and only video, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If Verizon's network can handle traffic, it can handle traffic—whether it's video or not. That's why the Net Neutrality rules allow for network management—but prohibit companies from cherry-picking which apps work and which ones don't.
"Optimization" is just another word for "slowing down, reshaping or degrading your video traffic, over the connection you buy, using the mobile-data plans you pay for," Free Press also said. (DSLReports has a story on the petition.)
The FCC is not commenting on the petition, a commission spokesperson told Ars today.
Verizon throttling “test” may be over
We reported on Verizon's video throttling last week. The carrier was apparently limiting video applications to 10Mbps, and it applied the policy both to third-party services like Netflix and YouTube and to Verizon video services such as Go90. "We've been doing network testing over the past few days to optimize the performance of video applications on our network," Verizon said last week. "The testing should be completed shortly. The customer video experience was not affected."
Further ReadingVerizon accused of throttling Netflix and YouTube, admits to “video optimization”
We asked Verizon for a response to the Free Press petition today. We also asked whether Verizon has completely stopped the throttling test and whether it plans to re-start the throttling later. We will update this story if we hear back.
In a statement to >Broadcasting & Cable this week, Verizon argued that the throttling doesn't violate net neutrality rules.
"Current net neutrality rules clearly state that providers may employ reasonable network management practices to ensure that their networks and services run efficiently and work well for their customers," Verizon said. "Video optimization is a non-discriminatory network management practice designed to ensure a high quality customer experience for all customers accessing the shared resources of our wireless network."
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that the commission will continue enforcing net neutrality rules as long as they are on the books. But Pai has begun a proceeding to overturn the net neutrality rules, and his proposal suggests that throttling of websites and online services might somehow help customers. Pai has consistently argued that there is no evidence of consumer harm to justify the FCC's net neutrality rules.
"Trump's FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has been pushing hard to undo the agency's Net Neutrality rules, but [Verizon throttling video] is exactly the kind of behavior these rules are designed to stop," Free Press says in its call for signatures. "If Verizon Wireless is violating Net Neutrality, it needs to pay the price. And the FCC needs to keep the rules that ban this kind of nonsense. Demand an FCC investigation."
Pai was a lawyer for Verizon from 2001 to 2003.
Throttling or reasonable network management?
Under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC took no action against T-Mobile USA's "Binge On" program, which reduced the speeds of video. But the FCC report that found no problems with Binge On was rescinded by Pai after he took over as chairman. Pai objected to the report's accusation that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules by charging video providers for data cap exemptions while allowing their own video to stream without counting against caps.
Further ReadingThrottling of websites and online services might help customers, FCC says
The Wheeler FCC's "guidelines distinguishing ‘throttling’ from 'reasonable network management'" provided ISPs with certainty over whether video throttling violated the rules, Harold Feld, senior VP of advocacy group Public Knowledge, said last week.
"Before, Verizon could simply point to the FCC guidelines to reassure their customers," Feld said. "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."
Verizon apparently didn't issue any notices to customers prior to the video throttling, despite transparency rules that require disclosure of network management practices. Verizon does maintain a webpage describing its video optimization, however. The rules require prominent display of network management policies on a publicly available website and disclosures at the point of sale.
Source : https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/07/verizons-throttling-of-video-should-be-investigated-by-fcc-petition-says/