A Large-Scale Analysis of Deployed Traffic Differentiation Practices

Fangfan Li (Northeastern University), Arian Akhavan Niaki (University of Massachusetts Ahmerst), David Choffnes (Northeastern University), Phillipa Gill (University of Massachusetts Amherst), Alan Mislove (Northeastern University)


Net neutrality has been the subject of considerable public debate over the past decade. Despite the potential impact on content providers and users, there is currently a lack of tools or data for stakeholders to independently audit the net neutrality policies of network providers. In this work, we address this issue by conducting a one-year study of content-based traffic differentiation policies deployed in operational networks, using results from 1,045,413 crowdsourced measurements conducted by 126,249 users across 2,735 ISPs in 183 countries/regions. We develop and evaluate a methodology that combines individual per-device measurements to form high-confidence, statistically significant inferences of differentiation practices, including fixed-rate bandwidth limits (i.e., throttling) and delayed throttling practices. Using this approach, we identify differentiation in both cellular and WiFi networks, comprising 30 ISPs in 7 countries. We also investigate the impact of throttling practices on video streaming resolution for several popular video streaming providers.