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The FCC has suggested that consumer outrage will prevent companies from violating net neutrality, but it if you’re not a network engineer, it can be hard to know if net neutrality is being violated at all. David Coffnes, a researcher at Northeastern University, set out to change that. He created an app to detect net neutrality violations, but Apple has banned it from the App Store, preventing consumers from accessing the information they need to at least know when they’re getting screwed over.
Using Apple’s beta testing platform called TestFlight, I tested the app, called Wehe. It’s straightforward. You open the app, agree to a consent form (he is using the data in his research), and click “run test.” The app is designed to test download speeds from seven apps: YouTube, Amazon, NBCSports, Netflix, Skype, Spotify, and Vimeo. According to the app, my Verizon LTE service streamed YouTube to my iPhone at 6 Mbps, Amazon Prime video at 8 Mbps, and Netflix at 4 Mbps. It downloaded other data at speeds of up to 25 Mbps.
“Differentiation means in this case throttling by Verizon,” Choffnes told me. This would, in theory, be the sort of thing people would want to know—with this knowledge, they could choose to switch to another carrier, or could lodge a complaint against with the Federal Trade Commission.
Update: After this article was published, Apple told Dave Choffnes that his iPhone app, designed to detect net neutrality violations, will be allowed in the iTunes App Store. According to Choffnes, Apple contacted him and explained that the company has to deal with many apps that don't do the things they claim to do. Apple asked Choffnes to provide a technical description of how his app is able to detect if wireless telecom providers throttle certain types of data, and 18 hours after he did, the app was approved