Recent research is being seized upon by Senate Democrats to allege violations of net neutrality principles by mobile data carriers slowing down online traffic.

Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) this week sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile after recent research alleged that they were slowing down certain services on their networks.

A study using data collected from an app called “Wehe” produced what it says is evidence that each mobile carrier has throttled at least one video streaming service. The group includes researchers at Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Stony Brook University. The study indicated that Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and NBC Sports have all been subject to bandwidth throttling.

“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 in their letters. They demanded responses, from each targeted carrier, to questions that included:

  • Has your company put into practice policies to throttle or prioritize internet traffic for consumers? What is the purpose of these policies?
  • Are consumers able to opt-in or opt-out of traffic differentiation? Does a customer’s choice change the price or affect their service, such as data allocation or requiring a different plan?
  • How do you determine which network traffic receives faster or slower treatment? Is it based on content, behavior, or IP address?

In December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission repealed its Obama era net neutrality rules that prohibited throttling and other discriminatory practices. Markey introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to reinstate those rules in February 2018. The resolution was passed by the Senate on a bi-partisan basis in May and is now being debated in the House of Representatives.