If you have ever streamed music or video on your smartphone, you may have noticed it can take longer than you would think. Though it may be just a perception, it could be that your data speed is deliberately being slowed down (throttled) by your carrier. In fact, the US rules on network neutrality were designed to stop this from happening. However, in the 3 years that the rules were in place, no company was fined for this type of activity. Very few companies (if any) will admit to deliberately slowing down certain types of content. If you suspect that throttling is going on, there is a new app to help test your connection.
Who Is Behind the Wehe App and What Is It?
Northeastern University has come up a project in the form of an app called Wehe. Once you install it from the Apple Store or Google Play, the addon will test the streaming speed of various apps. As an example, a random YouTube video may show up with a speed of 2 Mbps. The same video is tested again but masked as a different type of data. If the second test has a higher speed than the first test, you will see a message that says “differentiation”. That means your data plan or WiFi is throttling certain types of content on those apps. If the message says “no differentiation” then you are not being throttled.
A few quick words of caution when using the Wehe app. If you are on a metered plan (where you pay for a number of GB), this one will quickly eat up your data. Though you can still test it, an unmetered (unlimited) plan or WiFi is a better choice. A few users have issues getting the program to work as intended, and you may not get to choose the apps you would normally use for streaming. As with other apps, you have the option of declining Wehe to use your information. In an effort to make the app easy to use, the developers do not give any insight into what is going on behind the scenes.
Does My Cell Carrier Throttle My Usage?
The best way to answer this question is to use the Wehe app and test it for yourself. However, we can tell you that the two largest cell carriers in the US, Verizon and AT&T, are both reported to throttle certain apps by an estimated 50% on average. There are also reports that T-Mobile also throttles their data. If we are to believe these reports, the three companies make up almost 87% of the market share. That means there is a good chance the answer is yes, they do. Again, this may also be used to test ISP throttling.
This is a great tool to help you find out if your data is being throttled. Even though the FCC repealed the net neutrality laws, they are not set to end anytime soon. There are quite a few challenges in the US courts that should keep the rules in place for a while. As you can see, it does not stop the companies from breaking the law anyway. You can work around traffic throttling and other restrictions by using a VPN. Using a VPN will help you mask the traffic with encryption so that your carrier does not throttle based on specific services like Netflix.