Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Net neutrality is dead, and wireless companies are already throttling Netflix and YouTube

Illustration for article titled Net neutrality is dead, and wireless companies are already throttling Netflix and YouTube
Photo: Brian Ach (Getty Images for YouTube)

In news that should surprise precisely nobody, a study reported on by Bloomberg says that telecom companies have already begun throttling video apps like YouTube and Netflix now that Donald Trump’s FCC has killed net neutrality. Using an app called Wehe that monitors when data speeds are actively slowed down by internet providers, the researchers were able to determine that Amazon Prime Video and the NBC Sports app are being “degraded” along with YouTube and Netflix, with the app detecting “differentiation” from Verizon 11,100 times from January to May across the 100,000 consumers who used the Wehe app—meaning the wireless provider treated certain kinds of internet traffic differently than others, which was the thing net neutrality was supposed to prevent.


The carriers say this is all to make internet traffic more manageable, what with all of the people streaming things to their phones these days, not to mention the fact that this sort of thing is laid out in the terms-of-service agreements that everybody has to sign when they get a smartphone on one of these big networks like Verizon or AT&T (which, for the record, was caught differentiating 8,398 times). Spokespeople for the various telecom monsters also deny that this is what it looks like, saying that their companies aren’t specifically throttling Netflix or YouTube, and AT&T even compares this to the way some electrical companies institute rolling blackouts to give people cheaper service. That analogy doesn’t really work, though, because these digital rolling blackouts are happening constantly and only benefit the telecom companies by making people pay for shittier service.

That, as The Verge points out, is the real issue here. The four big cellphone carriers offer unlimited data plans now, but they’re all restricted in such a way that you have to wonder whether or not they really know what “unlimited” means. For instance, the wireless providers will usually throttle all of your speeds once you hit a certain number of gigabytes used, and they also limit video quality unless you pay for plans that are even more expensive than the normal unlimited plans. The Verge says this is all a “a direct result of FCC leniency,” and as much as T-Mobile or whatever may try to present its unlimited data plans as hip and liberating, what’s really happening here is that these companies are trying to avoid having to upgrade their infrastructure by using cheap, underhanded throttling tricks to squeeze money out of people with no other option.

Basically, we’re all getting screwed so a bunch of assholes can get richer, which might as well be the tagline for Donald Trump’s America.