Skip to main content

Verizon Wireless Reportedly Caps Netflix, YouTube Data Speeds

Verizon Wireless doesn't have a great sense of timing. Shortly after tech companies, digital rights organizations, and individuals banded together in support of net neutrality, the wireless network provider has reportedly capped data transfer speeds from video services like Netflix and YouTube.

The Verge reported that several Reddit users have complained about Verizon Wireless capping Netflix data transfer speeds. We were able to confirm this ourselves using Fast.com, which is Netflix's download speed tester. When we were connected to Verizon Wireless our download speeds peaked at 12Mbps; over Wi-Fi they hit 46Mbps. Testing via Speedtest.net, however, resulted in almost identical download speeds over cellular and Wi-Fi.

That means Verizon Wireless is currently throttling data transfer speeds from Netflix to about one-fourth of their potential, at least on our connection. (We suspect the company is shooting for 10Mbps and that it's just a coincidence that our home Wi-Fi is roughly four times faster.) Others have said that Verizon Wireless is also throttling download speeds from YouTube, too, so it seems the company is targeting popular video services.

It makes sense for wireless network providers to want to cap streaming video download speeds. Watching something on Netflix or YouTube puts much more of a strain on their networks than, say, scrolling through Twitter. But this throttling violates the tenets of net neutrality, which insists that a byte is a byte and that data shouldn't flow slower or faster based on its source. Limiting Netflix and YouTube is the exact opposite of that position.

Like we said at the top, this wasn't a great time for Verizon Wireless to limit Netflix and YouTube. Earlier this month, more than 100,000 "websites, internet users, and organizations" protested the FCC's plans to roll back Obama administration net neutrality protections. Supporters included Twitter, Amazon, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among many others. (And, yes, Netflix was one of the companies backing this protest.)

We've reached out to Verizon Wireless to learn more about the extent of the download speed limits and why they were put in place. The company hasn't responded to our request for comment. Netflix told The Verge that it isn't responsible for the download limits, which means it's taking place on Verizon Wireless' end. We'll update this post if the company gets back to us. In the meantime, it seems Netflix and YouTube will be just a bit slower.

  • WoWFishmonger
    A byte IS a byte - if I am paying for 50Mbps download speed with no data cap - give me what I pay for. If you want to limit my downloads, spell it out up front.... don't cherry pick websites. Big telecom needs to get some competition to put them in their place.
    Reply
  • Defekter_Engel
    They seem to be throttling YT and Netflix on FiOS as well. As these media outlets become more popular for gaining entertainment.
    Reply
  • Michael Rowe
    I think you need to understand how LTE handles data requests and why throttling "speed" of LTE doesn't help any cell carrier. If you slow down the transfer speed then that is just more time the phone is in the towers download channel taking up resources. So if your total stream is going to be 175mb of data, then the network wants to get it to you as fast as it can so it can stop allocating resources to you. I am not saying they are or are not doing it, IDK. But if they are it would not make sense. Now when a carrier limits a steam to a lower quality, that can help with RF or backhaul congestion since the total amount of data transmitted would be less. This is why carriers have plans built about total data usage and not data speeds.
    Reply
  • ravewulf
    19967317 said:
    I think you need to understand how LTE handles data requests and why throttling "speed" of LTE doesn't help any cell carrier. If you slow down the transfer speed then that is just more time the phone is in the towers download channel taking up resources. So if your total stream is going to be 175mb of data, then the network wants to get it to you as fast as it can so it can stop allocating resources to you. I am not saying they are or are not doing it, IDK. But if they are it would not make sense. Now when a carrier limits a steam to a lower quality, that can help with RF or backhaul congestion since the total amount of data transmitted would be less. This is why carriers have plans built about total data usage and not data speeds.

    Restricting the download speed means YouTube and Netflix auto adjust to a lower quality/smaller file size to keep playback smooth. Verizon could also attempt to charge YouTube and Netflix extra in return for restoring full speed to customers.
    Reply
  • Alex_462
    Capping the speed at 10Mbit will prevent YouTube or Netflix from streaming 4K, drastically reducing the load on the cell tower. So yeah, makes perfect sense for them to do it.
    Reply
  • clifftam
    Isn't it breaking the contract if they throttle speed or cap data?

    I know all the carrier do it to a certain extent but if it is not in the contract then they are breaking it.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    I thought the FCC's Net Neutrality rules didn't apply to cellular. I recall Google working with Verizon to propose a scheme that would allow cellular providers to do traffic management on their cellular network.

    Perhaps what's new about this is the targeting of specific sites, rather than blind throttling of big transfers.
    Reply
  • hokkdawg
    Yeah, 12 Mbit caps to Netflix still lets you stream in 1080p. Streaming 4K from a cell tower is completely unnecessary right now, and hogs an insane amount of bandwidth that needs to be available for other users to keep the technology functioning. LTE technology smthenlimit here, not profits- this is OK, and the Net Neutrality political movement needs to find a way to embrace this in their legal efforts.
    Reply
  • redemptionse
    As someone whos only internet option is verizon wireless I don't really get more than 12 mbps sustained to begin with unless its off peak. Maybe this will help my latency during peak hours due to less traffic?
    Reply
  • hokkdawg
    Yes, this will absolutely help! This problem is created by the fact that streaming technology is exceeding the abilities of cellular LTE engineering right now, so Verizon must do something to control this. Remember, every other cellular provider already does this!! ATT has "Stream Saver" and T-Mobile defaults all video to 480p. Verizon is no different, but their approach is to simply cap Netflix to 1080p - which is INCREDIBLE, considering that every other provider drops us to 480p. We have to respect the INSANE amount of capital required to engineer and deploy these networks. Yes, profits are also made, but as long as this doesn't compel the Wireless providers to stop innovating and investing, this practice is totally fine and completely necessary to make sure we all have a good experience on this limited technology.

    Let's not forget how incredible it is that wireless providers are sending this data speed over the air!
    Reply