February 3, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Mobile phone providers advertise “unlimited” data usage, but they often punish users who test the invisible boundaries those plans include. Verizon is the latest carrier to use such a strategy based on a PDF discovered on the company’s website. Beginning today, Verizon may throttle speeds of users who consume an “extraordinary” amount of data (what constitutes extraordinary is not clearly defined).
The document says “If you subscribe to a Data Plan or Feature on February 3, 2011, or after…” so current Verizon customers may be grandfathered in and not face this hurdle.
The rush of iPhone users coming to Verizon, and the oft-express desire to go to tiered data plans, likely led to Big Red deciding be tougher on the “top 5%” of its data users. While that’s no surprise, another move Verizon is taking to maintain network stability caught me off-guard; the company will begin to compress data in some instances.
Verizon says it will “transmit data files in a more efficient manner” when its network is experiencing heavy traffic. It will minimize caching, capacity, and video in those instances. And while the carrier hopes to avoid changing the appearance of content too much, there’s really no guarantee that you won’t be affected the next time you want to watch a YouTube HQ stream.
It’s possible that this could actually be a net positive because compression could lessen the strain on Verizon that is sure to come when the iPhone goes on sale February 10. That phone is considered one of the main reasons that AT&T service has been so abysmal in many cities, so Verizon may be using this technology as a way to prevent the same problems of dropped calls and shaky data connections. If you are the person whose content is affected, however, you might not care that Sally in San Jose is able to make a call but your video is overly-compressed and of poor quality. We’ll see soon enough.