Internet Providers Raided Over 'Throttling' Claims

Dennis Faas's picture

European regulators have raided the offices of three Internet Service Providers (ISPs) said to have intentionally slowed Internet traffic over a business dispute. The officials are exploring a new legal tactic that could also be used to stop such slowdowns in the US.

The dispute involves Cogent Communications, which is effectively an Internet middleman. It transfers data between major websites and the Internet Service Providers that carry data to customers' homes.

Last month Cogent claimed US-based Verizon was intentionally slowing down the traffic it handles for video streaming sites like Netflix. Cogent also claimed the move was an attempt to force it to pay a fee to get the service fully restored.

However, Verizon denied the claims, saying that Cogent was expecting it to do too much of the work handling Netflix data and that the slowdown was simply the result of a limit on how much Verizon is willing and able to do free of charge. (Source:

Throttling Dispute Crosses Atlantic

Now, officials from the European Commission have raided Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Telefonica -- three of the biggest European Internet providers.

The raid follows complaints by Cogent, which says the firms have also intentionally slowed down its traffic, in this case making their own services look better by comparison.

This isn't the first time European officials have stepped in to prevent a dispute of this kind. Previously, French officials investigated and then rejected a complaint that Orange was imposing an unfair fee on Cogent, similar to that suggested by Verizon in the US.

The French officials concluded that such a fee was reasonable given how much of Cogent's data Orange had to handle.

Intentionally Slowing Net Data May Breach Competition Law

The new European investigations take a different legal approach. To date, much of the debate over slowing (or throttling) the data transfer process has centered on the principle of net neutrality.

This principle states that firms should treat all Internet data (other than illegal content) in an equal manner, regardless of its source. However, experts remain divided on whether the principle has legal force.

Instead, the European regulators are treating this as a competition issue. They are investigating whether the firms are intentionally harming Cogent's services to make their own services look better.

If so, that could violate European competition laws designed to prevent firms from unfairly exploiting their market position. (Source:

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