Verizon Slows Mobile Video Streams, Claims Customers Not Affected

Faced with reports that it was slowing down mobile video streams, Verizon acknowledged on Friday that it was testing a new traffic management system.

"We've been doing network testing over the past few days to optimize the performance of video applications on our network," a company spokesperson said. "The testing should be completed shortly. The customer video viewing experience was not affected."

Verizon added that all video streams, regardless of distributor, were affected by the tests. The company's acknowledgement came several days after customers reported that that streams of Netflix and YouTube were capped at 10 Mbps. Netflix recommends speeds of 3 Mbps for standard definition quality 5 Mbps for high definition, and 25 Mbps for "ultra" high definition.

The wireless is slowing down connections even when customers tether their phones to other devices -- including laptops or devices that let people watch online video on TV screens. Verizon's explanation for the slowdowns was first reported by Ars Technica.

The neutrality rules require companies to disclose their traffic management practices to subscribers. The rules also broadly prohibit broadband networks from throttling content or applications, but allow carriers to engage in "reasonable network management."

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission issued a report endorsing T-Mobile's Binge On program, which allows consumers to stream unlimited video from a host of providers, but throttles speeds to DVD quality. That report, which was prepared by the prior FCC, was withdrawn this year by current Chairman Ajit Pai as part of a larger effort to overhaul the agency's approach to net neutrality.

Net neutrality advocacy group Free Press said Friday that Verizon's move raises questions. "If Verizon’s supposedly first-rate mobile network can’t handle the load, why is it picking on video streaming instead of imposing a speed limit that applies to any bandwidth-intensive apps?" Policy Director Matt Wood asked in a statement. "Net Neutrality rules allow for reasonable network management applied in a neutral fashion. It doesn’t allow broadband providers to pick and choose which kinds of apps work well, and which don’t.”

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