Net neutrality repeal starts to be felt as YouTube, Netflix, slower
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Net neutrality repeal starts to be felt as YouTube, Netflix, slower

New research from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has confirmed something that people have been warned about for the past year: the repeal of net neutrality regulations enshrined into law under the Obama administration is having an effect. And that effect could be dangerous. The victims? Thankfully, two companies that are more than large enough to weather the storm without batting an eyelid: Netflix and YouTube.

Netflix and Alphabet have returned significant positive performance for investors over the past 12 months

graph 0609 net neutrality

SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

According to researchers, the U.S.’s largest telecom companies are “throttling” a selection of popular sites – amongst them, Netflix and YouTube. What does “throttling” mean? It refers to intentionally slowing data speeds to certain destinations making, for example, video take longer to load.

The researchers managed to figure out what was happening by using a smartphone app called Wehe. This app, which has been downloaded by about 100,000 consumers, monitors “which mobile services are being throttled when and by whom.” In regards to net neutrality, this is a peerless data set that includes more information gathered over a longer time than ever before.

YouTube is, apparently, the prime target for “throttlers”, but Netflix, Amazon, and a number of other sites are also being targeted. The researchers said that they found 11,100 cases of “differentiation” by Verizon between January and May. They described this as “when a type of traffic on a network is treated differently than other types of traffic.” They added that the majority of this activity is “throttling” – the intentional degradation of some services. Consumers are rarely aware that their favourite services are being throttled.

Those who argued against the net neutrality repeal worried about a world where there were different “tiers” of internet provided to businesses depending on how much they could pay – that means, effectively, that sites with bigger bank balances could purchase super-speed internet, while penniless start ups would be sent back to the dial-up internet days of minute long page loadings. Clearly, then, platforms like YouTube and Netflix are beings that will thrive in this world.

But even they warned against the impact this could have on the internet generally: “premium” internet that exists outside the reach of new entrepreneurs puts another barrier in front of innovation. That’s not ideal for the next generation of innovators, it’s not ideal for consumers, and it’s not ideal for Big Tech either. Companies like Alphabet have made a long habit of investing in things they think look promising.

Florian Schaub, a privacy and mobile computing expert at the University of Michigan, thinks that – in a post net neutrality world – consumers have to stay informed and voice their opinions. He said:

"Efforts like Wehe are an important approach to detect whether internet service providers are engaging in traffic shaping, i.e., slowing down traffic of certain online services or apps. Now that net neutrality has been repealed by the FCC, it is important for consumers and researchers to watch out for ISPs starting to make use of their new ‘freedom’ in that way, and then call ISPs out for it."

Disclosure

Dominion holds Alphabet, Netflix, Amazon and other companies which could be effected by the events depicted in this story, in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.


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