Verizon Throttling Netflix Traffic as Part of Temporary Video Optimization Test

Some Verizon Wireless users this week began noticing throttled streaming speeds when watching content from streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, and Verizon today confirmed to Ars Technica that it has indeed been throttling speeds as "part of a temporary test" of a "new video optimization system."

"We've been doing network testing over the past few days to optimize the performance of video applications on our network," a Verizon spokesperson told Ars. "The testing should be completed shortly. The customer video experience was not affected."

Reports of throttled speeds first surfaced on reddit earlier this week, after Verizon users noticed that Netflix's speed test site was returning streaming speeds limited to approximately 10Mb/s, while other speed test tools, like Ookla Speedtest, were returning normal results. Similar throttled speeds were also seen when using YouTube and the actual Netflix service.

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It wasn't clear what was going on until this morning, when Verizon told Ars Technica that it was conducting a temporary test of a new optimization system. According to Verizon, the optimization test did not impact actual quality of video, which is true in most cases, but some YouTube users noticed downgraded quality resolved through using a VPN. Other video services, including Verizon's own Go90 video service, are also impacted.

With Netflix, the 10Mb/s limit doesn't impact Netflix video quality when watching on a mobile device, but it has the potential to be an issue when tethering and watching on a device that can stream Netflix's Ultra HD 25Mb/s video. According to Verizon, the video optimization limits are used regardless of whether a user is tethering.

But will that actually harm your Netflix video? Probably not, as long as you're watching on your mobile device and not tethering. Netflix says its Ultra HD quality video can require 25Mbps but that's apparently just for non-mobile devices. For mobile devices, Netflix offers a few quality settings including "Unlimited," which it says "may use 1GB per 20 minutes or more depending on your device and network speeds."

When Verizon introduced its unlimited streaming data plan in February of 2017, the company said it would not throttle video or manipulate data, and Verizon was noncommittal when asked by Ars Technica if the alleged "temporary test" marked a change in policy. "We deliver whatever the content provider gives us," the company said. "We're always looking for ways to optimize our network without impacting our customers' experience."

As The Verge points out, what customers experienced appeared to be more of a hard cap than network optimization, raising some questions about Net Neutrality.

Verizon says its testing should be completed shortly, after which speeds will presumably go back to normal.

Tag: Verizon

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Top Rated Comments

stygs Avatar
90 months ago
Great! I'm gonna throttle my payment as part of an "expense optimization test".

Brilliant idea VZ!
Score: 109 Votes (Like | Disagree)
max2 Avatar
90 months ago
I don't see the big deal.
Oh its a huge deal.

It is my connection I pay for.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
adamjackson Avatar
90 months ago

It is my connection I pay for.
ISPs do not see it this way. Verizon will say:


* I own the towers
* I own the fiber
* I Own the data center
* I own the customer support and brick & mortar stores


You pay an agreed upon monthly fee to lease my service. I can cancel the contract at anytime without cause and I can keep you from accessing specific parts of the web because you are a guest on my network.

FCC would say "You're just a utility, you aren't allowed to do that" but then Verizon said "oh okay here's billions of dollars and one of our top lawyers now runs the FCC and we're gonna go back to doing things how we please"

ISPs don't want to be classified like Power companies are. But it's akin to your power company saying "You can only run Kenmore appliances from now on" Imagine the outrage of our public on both sides of the aisle about this sort of announcement from power companies but for some reason, ISPs are allowed to do that.

I don't see any reason for Net Neutrality to be up for debate except for when you trace the lobby & donation dollars back to ISPs and see that this is why it's even up for debate. ISPs rate-limiting or blocking specific websites is just like a power company not allowing LG Fridges in the homes of their customers or saying "You've used enough power today" by 9PM and only half of your house now has power (i.e. throttling).
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
X--X Avatar
90 months ago
But Verizon will sell you their own HD-TV content for just 80 bucks a month.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with Netflix being a direct competitor ;-)
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zarniwoop Avatar
90 months ago
For just $9,99/month you can add unlimited use of Netflix in VZ network. Otherwise it is SD video for you no matter how much you pay for Netflix.

I suppose this is part of the Make Amurica great again -scheme?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bugeats Avatar
90 months ago
I don't see the big deal.
The very fact that the ISP is doing anything to distinguish traffic as anything other than raw packets is problematic.

They are free to optimize the flow of network traffic, but the minute they start cracking open the content stream and saying "this is video" or even "this is video from one of our competitors" they cease to be neutral. How many more steps until "this is video that we've throttled to save our infrastructure costs and injected our own advertisements into"?

I suspect that what we are seeing is evidence for software/systems development in anticipation for an anti net neutrality victory. If there was any question as to the net-neutrality agenda of big ISPs, this should be red flag.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)