St. Thomas — Viya might be selling its customers a 6 for a 9 this holiday season, after fully restoring its network earlier this year in the U.S Virgin Islands.
Over the course of 30 days, Viya shaved off a staggering 17 percent of bandwidth from its highest paying internet customers. State of the Territory News found that Viya is throttling some of its highest paying customers by as much as 17 percent.
State of the Territory tested 3 seperate internet plans in different locations on St. Thomas to compile data over a 60 day period. Google Wifi units were used to more accurately monitor the speed of each network in realtime and generate a visual historic record.
So, what exactly is throttling? Bandwidth throttling is a purposeful slowing of available bandwidth. In other words, it’s an intentional lowering of the ‘speed’ that’s typically available over an internet connection.
A look at Viya’s Plans after Research Studies:
Rate Hikes & Slower Speeds
There was no conclusive evidence, indicating that Viya slows down traffic based on websites customers visit or services they use like Netflix, Hulu or online gaming services for Xbox or PS4.
Earlier this year, AT&T secured a landmark $86 billion merger with Time Warner Cable. In the days and months leading up to the historic deal, AT&T vehemently denied that its customers would encounter rate hikes.
Less than a month later, the company quietly announced sweeping changes to its rates and fees to offset the cost of its massive purchase. After promising lower prices for customers before the deal closed, AT&T quietly raised its prices and altered its services.
Government Regulation & Oversight
The approval of such a merger underscores the Public Service Commission’s willingness to allow two of the largest internet companies in the territory — Innovative and Choice Wireless at the time — to join forces. PSC hearing examiner Ronald Belfon said the sale was “in the best interest” of local television and cable ratepayers.
The FCC does not take an active role in regulating local telecommunications companies because of their size. The FCC has ruled in the past that companies like Vitelco — now Viya — were not large enough to affect national markets and were subsequently not considered a monopoly by the agency.
Because Viya only services the U.S. Virgin Islands, and its would have limited impacts on national networks, the FCC usually does not regulate mergers. The Industrial Reorganization Act: The communications industry uses Vitelco as an example discussing antitrust cases in the United States before the turn of the century.
The Public Service Commision (PSC) is tasked with protecting consumers and in part, regulating entities like WAPA, WICO and Viya.
This means that data centers, towers, and other hubs will be using significantly less power. In 2007 Comcast for example, was caught interfering with peer-to-peer traffic. The FCC held a hearing and concluded that Comcast violated the principles of the Internet Policy Statement.
For consumers, the numbers may seem relatively small but can potentially save Viya thousands of dollars in operational costs.
The local internet giant is throttling a number of its internet plans and collecting 100% of the profits from its customers. It’s also possible that Viya simply can’t deliver the speeds they are advertising in the Virgin Islands.
How to spot bandwidth throttling
If you suspect that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is throttling bandwidth because you’ve been reaching a monthly threshold, an internet speed test done several times throughout the month might help determine if you’re a victim of throttling.
If your bandwidth suddenly decreases near the end of the month then this might be happening.
What can you do about it?
If a test now shows that your wifi is being throttled, what can you do about it? You can start by gathering data using a free internet speed test. Then using your data call, email, or visit the office to report the problem to your local ISP.
Another option is establishing a Virtual Private Network (VPN), this will further secure your connection and prevent your data from being intercepted.. Most customers just want a reliable high-speed connection to enjoy their favorite games, movies, and apps. A Google Wifi unit can help you hold your internet service provider accountable.
You can monitor the speed your ISP delivers to your home or business right in the Google Wifi app. Google Wifi is recognized as the best selling mesh router system in the industry, with Google’s routers testing internet speeds daily to summarize the actual speed users are getting in a typical day/month.
Makiel Cepeda, a digital marketing specialist, Duryan Cozier, a graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of the Virgin Islands and Amaziah George, editor-in-chief at State of the Territory News contributed to this report.