Verizon Admits To Throttling Netflix Streams, Blames Network Optimization Trials

Has your House of Cards binge been plagued by lag? Verizon admitted to having recently experimented with capping download speeds to 10Mbps on mobile devices. The test seems to have particularly targeted popular video streaming services like Netflix and YouTube.

Verizon’s cap was uncovered through tests last week with Netflix’s speed test tool Although Netflix was the only service that was able to verify these numbers through a test tool, other video streaming services such as YouTube seemed to have also suffered from lag. Many people argued that these numbers were confirmation that Verizon was throttling services like Netflix.

Verizon logo sign

Verizon implicitly admitted that there recently had been caps, but that the limitations should not have affected the user’s experience. A spokesperson remarked, “We've been doing network testing over the past few days to optimize the performance of video applications on our network...The test was across the board, and did not target any individual applications.”

The representative confirmed that a 10Mbps cap was in place, however, “the consumer video experience should have been unaffected by the test since 1080p video is HD quality and looks great at 10 [Mpbs].” This argument, overall, does have numbers to support it. A connection of 7 Mbps or less works perfectly well for even Netflix’s highest quality mobile streaming, as long as the user is not tethering their device. Most users would only need more than 10 Mbps for non-mobile devices.  

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Image from: Wikimedia Commons, AutoPhoto

In spite of these reassuring numbers, many users believe that Verizon was throttling targeted video streaming services. It is nevertheless unlikely that Verizon will face any legal consequences from this experiment. Net neutrality clearly outlaws throttling. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), however, usually allows carriers to impose caps, as long as they equally limit video quality for all video streaming services. In this case, Verizon appears to have been throttling across multiple services and is therefore unlikely to face the wrath of the FCC.