Verizon is Now Throttling Video on All Unlimited Plans

Delia Watkins
August 24, 2017

Verizon claims that there's no visible quality boost between 720p and 1080p on a smartphone, and that's actually fairly true - a 1280×720 resolution screen on a six-inch panel is Retina quality at 14 inches. Verizon was inevitably going to be the first telco to make this kind of move; the firm sued to block relatively toothless net neutrality requirements once, then got slapped with tougher requirements for its trouble.

The options will replace Verizon's previous unlimited data plan, launched in February for $80 a month for a single line. Customers that are now signed up for a plan can keep it, but even for them some conditions will change. Video capped to 480p on smartphones, 720p on tablets. But this week the carrier announced it will be splitting the original plan into three different new options: Go Unlimited ($75 for the first line), Beyond Unlimited ($85 for the first line) and Business Unlimited (prices vary). To offset the change, the company added an additional 5 GB mobile hot spot data (now it's 10 GB total) at no additional charge. Customers with an "Unlimited" plan can be throttled at any time, even at the beginning of their billing cycles before they've used any data. But as competition in the market has intensified, a new round of low-cost unlimited data plans returned starting last summer with lower prices. Calling and texting to Canada and Mexico are included on the plan. Video streaming is upgraded to 720p for smartphones and 1080p for tablets. At the time, Verizon's offering was more generous with HD video than AT&T or T-Mobile, permitting it by default; now it's the worst, behind Sprint, not even allowing phone video to reach 1080p.

What do you think about Verizon's decision to throttle video streaming? Today, we have come across Verizon's new strategy for the unlimited plans. For instance, the cheapest tier, "Go Unlimited", ($75/mo) may throttle users merely due to network congestion (instead of data usage), and subscribers will be limited to 480p video streaming on smartphones. That figure is slightly higher for tablets, at 720p, but 1080p is out of the question on both devices.

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But if that's the case, why would Verizon put so many restrictions on its flagship plan?

For someone that hasn't ever had the chance to work for Verizon, it is pretty hard to prove that the provider's network has been slowed down by Unlimited. But Verizon's gone about this in the wrong way, by not being open about the changes, and forcing them on existing customers overnight. (Some YouTube users said they were able to bypass the limits by using a VPN service.) Advocacy group Free Press alleged that Verizon violated net neutrality rules by throttling video applications on its mobile network, but Verizon denied breaking any rules. This is exactly the sort of things that the FCC's net-neutrality protections (which, by the way, are now still in place) were meant to protect against.

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