Wireless carriers have been known to throttle data during times of network congestion. However, a recent study indicates that video streaming speeds may be deliberately slowed down by carriers even when networks are not crowded.

Researchers from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst discovered that carriers throttle online video streaming regardless of network congestion levels. Factors such as location and time of day seemed to have minimal impact on this practice. The study, which analyzed data from over 600,000 tests conducted in the US and more than 1 million tests worldwide using the Wehe app, revealed that all major US carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon – engaged in throttling.

Interestingly, the study found that YouTube was the most commonly throttled video streaming platform, while Vimeo was throttled the least. YouTube and Netflix were throttled by all four carriers, and Amazon Prime Video was also subject to throttling by T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon.

David Choffnes, an associate professor at Northeastern University and co-author of the study, highlighted that throttling was observed consistently, regardless of network congestion levels. While AT&T stated that it does not throttle based on content and offers customers various speed and data management options, the study results indicated otherwise.

Choffnes acknowledged that users’ chosen plan and settings could impact throttling but emphasized that a significant proportion of Wehe video tests conducted by AT&T users experienced throttling. The research also pointed out that throttling could result in reduced video quality.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon were all approached for comments on the study findings. While AT&T responded by mentioning the importance of user settings and plans in relation to speed, T-Mobile referenced its efforts to enhance streaming services in a previous press release. Meanwhile, Verizon and Sprint did not provide immediate comments on the study.

In conclusion, the study sheds light on the prevalence of video streaming throttling by major wireless carriers, raising awareness about potential implications for consumers. As users, being informed about these practices can help make more informed decisions about their mobile data usage and service providers.