Data Throttling Problems Widespread, According To FTC Suit, M-Labs Study

BY Heather Greenfield
October 29, 2014

Washington – The FTC announced this week it is suing AT&T for slowing Internet speeds for customers for heavy Internet usage even though they paid for unlimited data as advertised.  The Computer & Communications Industry Association applauds increased enforcement in this area.  A new study from the Measurement Lab Consortium (M-Labs) suggests the problem of interfering with Internet traffic is even more widespread. Their analysis of connections between networks concluded that what Internet users assumed were technical problems connecting to Netflix or other content sites were really the result of pressure exerted by the subscriber’s Internet Access Provider.


M-Labs collected 5 years of data and found patterns of performance degradation whenever and wherever specific pairs of Access/Transit Internet Access Providers interconnected. In one example for New York City, the report found Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon failed to achieve median download speeds above 4Mbps when connecting over Cogent from the Spring 2013 until March of this year.


The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:


“Many customers were frustrated that although they paid their Internet Access Provider for high speed Internet access, they experienced difficulties getting the the service to work for sites like Netflix – until Netflix or others also paid additional fees to the Internet Access Provider. This report provides the hard data charting the slowdown in service — and the shift once Netflix paid a ransom on top of what customers were already paying for their Internet service.


“We are glad to see the FTC take action against AT&T for deceiving millions of smartphone customers by advertizing and charging them for ‘unlimited’ data plans, but then limiting their Internet speeds by as much as 90 percent. They also failed to adequately disclose the specifics of the company’s policy of throttling data once customers reached higher levels of data usage over a month. The FTC should be commended for standing up for Internet users.

“These problems serve as tangible reminders of the state of broadband and wireless competition.  Suffice it to say, it’s not good.  Without adequate competition, AT&T and “Comcast can too easily get away with deceiving their customers and purposely degrading their customers’ access to the content they want and pay for.


“It is increasingly clear that a few powerful companies in this area continue to abuse their customers when they think they can get away with it, and continue to push for the weakest rules possible to allow them to discriminate and manipulate the services they provide.


“Approval of mergers that would increase the already great market power of such companies, and their increase their disdain for reasonable regulations, would be a mistake.”

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