Verizon to Start Throttling Data
A document on Verizon's website reveals plans to begin throttling the throughput of customers
who use an "extraordinary amount" of data. The PDF
, called "Important Information about Verizon Wireless Data Plans and Features," announces two new "network management practices" that it is implementing to deal with the expected surge in traffic caused by new iPhone users: "optimizing" content and limiting heavy data use. But without a definition of what "extraordinary" means, some users are likely to find themselves stuck in the slow lane.
The brief document describes how the carrier is "implementing optimizing and transcoding technologies" that will supposedly rescale content depending on the device that is requesting it. To head off complaints of violating net neutrality, Verizon asserts that its "optimization process is agnostic to the content itself and to the website that provides it." The document links to Verizon's Explanation of Optimization Deployment
page which notes how all HTTP traffic (including that from Verizon's own domains) goes through optimization. Text is compressed losslessly, images are downsampled, and recorded video (but not streaming) will be transcoded to H.264. Resizing and compressing webpages and other content on the fly sounds like it'll make a hash of some content, and Verizon notes that while "any change to the file is likely to be indiscernible," users may notice that the display will be "minimally impacted."
The second part of the document applies to users who "subscribe to a Data Plan or Feature on February 3, 2011 or after," obviously referring to new iPhone owners. Verizon says that they "may" throttle data throughput for customers who use "an extraordinary amount of data and fall within the top 5 percent of Verizon Wireless data users." This cap will be imposed for the rest of the current billing cycle as well as the cycle that follows. The amount of data usage that is considered "extraordinary" is not made clear, nor is the magnitude of the throttling that users will be under for up to two months. And it's not clear at all if there will be a warning, or if you just get slammed.
Early users of the iPhone on Verizon are reporting overall slower speeds
than AT&T in good coverage areas, but more good coverage areas overall. Verizon is clearly interested in protecting their network service, but clearer guidelines would help users avoid being penalized for overuse.