According to some new findings which are based on a current study by Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, Sprint Corp. has been trying to slow down the traffic to Microsoft Corp.’s Internet-based video chat service Skype. About 100,000 consumers have started using the researchers’ Wehe smartphone app in order to test for Internet connections. Researchers obtain information from these tests and aggregate and analyze them to check if data speeds are being slowed down, or throttled, for specific mobile services.
Among some of the leading US carriers, Sprint was the only one which throttled Skype. This throttle was detected in 34 percent of 1,968 full tests which is defined as that wherein a user runs two tests in a row and this was conducted between January 18 and October 15.
David Choffnes, one of the researchers who developed the application said- “In the case of a video call, which is what we were testing, the video quality would be much poorer – poorer than what the network supports. This finding is proving to be troublesome for Skype because it relies on Sprint’s wireless Internet network, and the application has a tool for communication which competes with Sprint’s calling services. If you are a telephony provider and you provide IP services over that network, then you shouldn’t be able to limit the service offered by another telephony provider that runs over the Internet. From a purely common sense competition view, it seems directly anti-competitive.”
Such slowing speeds have the ability to reduce bottlenecks and congestion but raise questions about whether all of the Internet traffic is treated equally or not. The principle states that carriers shouldn’t be discriminated by the user, app or content. The Federal Communications Commission put up net-neutrality rules in 2015, but these were scrapped post Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.
Sprint spokeswoman Lisa Dimino said that the telecom company doesn’t “single out Skype or any other individual content provider in this way but Microsoft didn’t comment on the same.
The researchers purchased Sprint’s wireless plan in order to try detecting throttling of Skype in the lab, but the experience of Wehe application users couldn’t be replicated. This was probably because the throttling affects certain subscription plans only, said researchers.
Earlier this year, Choffnes and his fellow researchers discovered that the largest US telecom companies had been throttling popular apps including Netflix and Google’s YouTube. The studies tried looking for “differentiation,” whenever a type of traffic on a network was treated differently in comparison to other types of traffic and this activity is considered throttling.