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Internet Service Providers Caught Slowing Customer Speeds On Purpose

Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon: in the doghouse.

Despite net neutrality advocates having won a major battle this year, major ISPs don’t seem to care. Time Warner cable appears to have made history today by being one of the first broadband providers to receive a net neutrality complaint — the others aren’t far behind.

To be clear, Net Neutrality was one of the basic concepts of the Internet when it was invented — so that anyone could access information from a free and open world wide web equally. The point was always to keep the Internet a level playing field for everyone.

In a nutshell, Net Neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks equally. The other possible scenario being that ISPs would be allowed to slow down, or “throttle,” data transfer from certain sites at their discretion.

Virtual server and streaming media provider Commercial Network Services (CNS) has submitted its complaints to the FCC, stating that Time Warner Cable is violating net neutrality’s “no paid prioritization” and “no throttling” sections. In the complaint, CNS said that TWC gives access only to congested traffic routes and refuses to deliver its content through low-latency connections — unless of course it ponies up some cash.

For its part, Time Warner told The Register and The Washington Post that it does have free arrangements with companies “who exchange high volumes of traffic at multiple locations and where there is a mutual exchange of value,” but unfortunately, CNS doesn’t qualify for the same deal. For now, CNS has filed an informal complaint, but could file a formal one in the future. Time Warner, on the other hand, apparently remains confident that the FCC will take its side. A spokesperson told The Register:

TWC’s interconnection practices are not only ‘just and reasonable’ as required by the FCC, but consistent with the practices of all major ISPs and well-established industry standards. We are confident that the FCC will reject any complaint that is premised on the notion that every edge provider around the globe is entitled to enter into a settlement-free peering arrangement.

Along with Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon have also been accused of slowing down data from popular websites to thousands of residential customers and businesses across the country.

Internet activists and watchdogs, Battleforthe.net, released a study on Monday in which they examined results from 300,000 Internet users and found obvious network degradations from five of the largest Internet service providers (ISPs). That’s about 75 percent of all hardwired households across the country. It’s important to note that these results come shortly after the FCC made its pro-net neutrality ruling.

After months of what seemed like endless amounts of money and ignorant comments from Republican politicians (Ted Cruz was especially nuts), there was finally hope on the horizon. The rules, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, are intended to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else. So, essentially, the Internet would remain the wild frontier of free expression and innovation it was originally intended to be.

Tim Karr of Free Press, one of the groups that makes up BattlefortheNet, told The Guardian that the findings show ISPs are not providing content to users at the speeds they’re paying for.

For too long, internet access providers and their lobbyists have characterized net neutrality protections as a solution in search of a problem. Data compiled using the Internet Health Test show us otherwise – that there is widespread and systemic abuse across the network. The irony is that this trove of evidence is becoming public just as many in Congress are trying to strip away the open internet protections that would prevent such bad behavior.

The Study examined the speeds of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) across the country to get their results. CDNs bear most of the load of popular and highly trafficked websites. When a site becomes popular and garners a large amount of traffic, it typically pays a CDN to host its data on a network of servers across the country or the world so that its content is close to the people who access it.

More from the Guardian:

In Atlanta, for example, Comcast provided hourly median download speeds over a CDN called GTT of 21.4 megabits per second at 7pm throughout the month of May. AT&T provided speeds over the same network of ⅕ of a megabit per second. When a network sends more than twice the traffic it receives, that network is required by AT&T to pay for the privilege. When quizzed about slow speeds on GTT, AT&T told Ars Technica earlier this year that it wouldn’t upgrade capacity to a CDN that saw that much outgoing traffic until it saw some money from that network (as distinct from the money it sees from consumers).

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, despite initial skepticism about his past, has proven to be an aggressive regulator when it comes to telecom mergers. “History proves that absent competition a predominant position in the market such as yours creates economic incentives to use that market power to protect your traditional business in a way that is ultimately harmful to consumers,” he said in statements at the Internet and Television Expo in May.

This study comes at an interesting time, as telecoms and cable companies are preparing legal challenges to the recent net neutrality rules. Lobbyists for the companies are hammering members of Congress to get them to repeal or roll back Net Neutrality.

You can find out more, or participate, on Battleforthenet and if you’re curious, you can run an Internet health test here.

As an example, I have Xfinity and pay for the 105 Mbps package. I pay quite a bit per month to have that and need to rely on good speeds. Here are the results from my test at BattleFrontNet.

Net Neutrality

I ran another test to compare on Comcast’s speed test and the result were unsurprisingly very different:

Net Neutrality

That looks fantastic doesn’t it? I apparently have a screaming connection and am getting way more than what I’m paying for.

And then I ran another independent test at Speakeasy via Mega Path:

Net Neutrality

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

 

 

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