Yesterday, we reported that Verizon Wireless appeared to be throttling Netflix traffic, — and today, the company seems to have come clean. In a statement provided to Ars Technica and The Verge, Verizon implicitly admitted to capping the traffic, blaming the issue on a temporary video optimization test.
“We’ve been doing network testing over the past few days to optimize the performance of video applications on our network,” a Verizon Wireless spokesperson said. “The testing should be completed shortly. The customer video experience was not affected.”
This is a really weird statement, seemingly referring to something completely different from what customers actually experienced. What customers saw wasn’t optimization, but a clear cap, with tests from Netflix’s speed-test tool showing measurably lower rates than non-Netflix tests. Some users reported similar caps on YouTube as well, but it’s still unclear how broadly the caps were applied.
If that’s what Verizon means by optimization, then it looks an awful lot like the throttling scenarios Net Neutrality advocates have been warning about for years.
It’s worth remembering that Title II is still officially the law of the land, and although the FCC is doing its best to roll it back, Verizon Wireless is still legally a common carrier regulated under Title II, which means it’s obligated to treat all traffic equally. There are some exceptions to that for network management, but throttling a specific service is a textbook violation of those rules. Netflix traffic was clearly, tangibly being treated differently from other traffic, and customers hadn’t opted into any special service like Go90 that might justify it.
We asked Verizon whether they believe these tests are in violation of Title II, and whether they were applied to all video services equally. We’ll update with any response.