App Store
Apple is blocking an app monitoring net neutrality violations from the App Store. PhotoAtelier/Flickr

An app designed to monitor data speeds of certain apps to track potential violations of net neutrality has been blocked by Apple from appearing in the App Store, according to a report from Motherboard .

The app, called WeHe, is designed to test the download speeds of seven popular streaming apps in order to determine if an internet service provider is slowing down data speeds while the services are in use.

Developed by David Coffnes, a researcher at Northeastern University, WeHe is intended to act as a monitor to prevent mobile carriers and internet providers from throttling services and slowing data speeds—a violation of one of the bright line rules of net neutrality.

Of the tenants of net neutrality—no blocking content, no slowing or throttling data and no paid prioritization that offers higher speeds to services who pay for it—data speeds are the hardest for consumers to track. Connections can fluctuate for any number of reasons and it can be hard to determine if a service isn’t working due to throttling from the network provider or just a spotty reception.

WeHe would put an end to the speculation by providing some more definite answers. It tests download speeds from YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, Vimeo, Amazon, NBCSports and Skype—all apps that consume a considerable amount of bandwidth and require a consistent, good connection to operate.

Those services are some of the prime candidates to be slowed by carriers. For providers like Verizon and AT&T that offer their own streaming services, apps like Netflix and Vimeo are viewed as competitors. Carriers can put their own products at an advantage by throttling competitors.

WeHe on Android
WeHe tests for net neutrality violations. Screengrab via Google Play Store

According to Motherboard, a test version of the WeHe app successfully determined that Verizon appeared to be capping data speeds from video streaming services. While most downloads occurred at speeds of up to 25Mbps, those speeds dropped while streaming from Amazon Prime (8Mbps), YouTube (6Mbps) and Netflix (4Mbps).

That data would suggest Verizon is already throttling speeds of streamers using its network to watch video content—a practice that is technically a violation of the rules of net neutrality, though a recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission that stripped broadband internet of its public utility classification would make it difficult to enforce those rules.

The information could still be useful to consumers who may want to raise awareness of the behavior of telecommunication companies or file a complaint with a government agency like the FCC or Federal Trade Commission. However, the app is not currently available for public use as Apple has blocked it from the App Store.

According to Apple, the application has “no direct benefits to the user” and contained “objectionable content,” though it did not provide the app’s creator with any indication as to what content in the app failed to meet Apple’s standards.

The app likely would not stop carriers from violating net neutrality; even when strict rules were in place, ISPs would find ways to throttle speeds or lower the quality of video streams in order to cut down on bandwidth required. But consumers may still find the tool useful. Unfortunately, for the time being, they won’t be able to find WeHe in the App Store.