Verizon Accused of Throttling Internet Bandwidth

Verizon has net neutrality backers worried that we're seeing the future of the Internet following a report that the company is intentionally throttling down the bandwidth for streaming services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Netflix. The company is denying the claims and says that it is treating all data passing through its networks equally.

Verizon denies throttling cloud servicesVerizon denies throttling cloud services

David Raphael, a software engineer at iScan Online, posted his findings and a conversation with a Verizon tech support representative on his personal blog. According to Mr. Raphael, he discovered the problem after looking into why iScan's president was experiencing slow performance when accessing the company's services from home.

What Mr. Raphael found was iScan's services, which rely on AWS, were showing substantially slower speeds compared to other online services. He said,

Since we host all of our infrastructure on Amazon's AWS – I decided to do a little test – I grabbed a URL from AWS S3 and loaded it. 40kB/s.

Testing the same services through a remote connection that didn't rely on Verizon's FIOS broadband service showed a marked improvement at 5000kB/s performance. His boss also used Verizon FIOS at home, making the slow performance issue seem like more than just a coincidence, especially since their work Internet connection relied on a different company.

Mr. Raphael contacted Verizon tech support where he was eventually asked, "Is Verizon now limiting bandwidth to cloud providers like Amazon's AWS services?" The support person replied, "Yes, it is limited bandwidth to cloud providers."

Verizon is adamantly denying it is throttling certain services, telling the Washington Post,

We treat all traffic equally, and that has not changed. Many factors can affect the speed of a customer's experiences for a specific site, including that site's servers, the way the traffic is routed over the Internet and other considerations. We are looking into this specific matter, but the company representative was mistaken. We're going to redouble our representative education efforts on this topic.

In other words, Verizon's support person gave Mr. Raphael wrong information when he said the company is limiting bandwidth for some services. That's very plausible since it isn't likely that a front-line tech support person is privy to technical information about Verizon's bandwidth management policies.

Whether or not the answer Mr. Raphael was given is accurate, net neutrality supporters have cause for concern. A Federal Appeals court recently struck down the FCC's rules requiring all Internet providers to treat traffic the same no matter what the source -- the basic tenant of net neutrality.

The court said that while the FCC is within its bounds to set guidelines prohibiting carriers from favoring or throttling traffic, it was classifying broadband providers in a way that gave them an exemption from the type of regulations net neutrality included. As such, the rules are no longer in place, although the FCC can work to find a different avenue for enforcing net neutrality.

For now, companies such as Verizon are saying they aren't planning on implementing policies that limit bandwidth for certain types of Internet traffic despite the Appeals Court ruling. Mr. Raphael's findings, however, will have net neutrality advocates watching even closer to see if changes really are happening.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]