Proof: Internet access providers slowing speeds

Net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast cannot discriminate against certain web traffic.  In other words, ISPs can’t slow down traffic for companies that refuse to pay up.

Finally, proof has emerged that not only is such “Pay-to-Play Internet” a possibility, it’s already happening.

A recent study from research consortium M-Lab suggests that certain “eyeball network” ISPs (think Comcast or Time Warner Cable)  are intentionally squeezing data from some incoming networks like Netflix to slow down service.  And not only are customers (the “eyeballs”)  of the incoming network receiving degraded service, but the effective “traffic jams” created are causing anyone else incidentally using the same route to get stuck, as well.

Cardozo law professor Susan Crawford described the current field of play in the Internet:

Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable are now powerful enough that they can demand that they be paid for connecting with other networks. Their power comes from their huge numbers of subscribers; other networks need Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon more than these eyeball networks need them. If the eyeball networks aren’t paid, they will refuse to upgrade the doors between their eyeballs and the network seeking to connect. If that upgrade doesn’t happen but the eyeballs keep asking for more and more data — because, say, they want to watch movies online from Netflix — packets get dropped. And if packets get dropped, hourglasses spin and screens freeze.

These payments are whatever the eyeball network asks for–usually masked as some sort of “upgrade” to handle increased traffic volume. But because the monopolistic eyeball networks are the only way for incoming networks to reach the “last mile” to consumers, they can effectively “invent fees and then assess them, and force everyone else in the system to pass those costs on to subscribers,” according to Crawford.

M-Lab’s research noted clearly observable incidents of network throttling during peak user times between 2013 and 2014–specifically for Cogent traffic.  Cogent is the network with which Netflix was doing business for much of that time.  Netflix competes with many of the eyeball networks for video entertainment customers, and has notoriously criticized providers like Comcast for alleged attempts to make the company pay up for faster service.

See where we’re going here?  And not only did Netflix traffic effectively slow, but any other innocent bystander business using Cogent.

You can read more about the study here. As a country, we’ve been speaking about the loss of net neutrality as a potentially devastating consequence in the far future.  Now, it seems clear: That threat is already here.

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2 Responses to Proof: Internet access providers slowing speeds

  1. Pingback: The most important vote ever for net neutrality |

  2. Joanne Kurtz says:

    Dish high speed internet is slower than dial up when you get it plus you are paying more than other internet are charging for better speeds of course. Dish also slows you down after you supposedly use so much. Being quite honest and I am caught in this mess complain every month about lack of speed to them but it never speeds up much more at any time so how they call this high speed is hard to understand Their latest move is to say that the service is really for rural areas not for suburbia. That is as false as it gets as well my area has ads for them almost every week and they do not tell you that you slow down or that it is anything but a high speed internet, It also goes down in bad weather. If their internet is busy you slow way down another words Dish has lied to a prospective customer from the get go to sell their service. Another person who has their service gets by by using her husbands business internet when she goes on line and leaves the Dish sit. They took the upper dishes off and dropped them onto a lower roof here when I complained about the speed and one of their employees told me that was unacceptable and sent a tech out the following day after it had been installed he told me to go to Mozilla Firefox that would solve the problem ..yah right no it did not. It is so slow as often as not it will not open pages on the local newspaper even e-mail can take forever to lot of things just time out. That is bad news Dish.

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