Verizon to optimize content, throttle heavy data users

Verizon will soon be able to put its network to the test, as the carrier opened the floodgates Thursday morning to preorders for the CDMA iPhone 4. To protect the stability of its network, Verizon has also quietly announced two new practices it will implement to police data traffic.

As noted by Boy Genius Report, Verizon has published a new PDF document called Important Information about Verizon Wireless Data Plans and Features. In it, the carrier announces two new “network management practices” that it will use to maintain the stability of its network, which it calls a “shared resource among tens of millions of customers.”

The first practice involves optimizing and transcoding some content in order to reduce the strain on its network capacity. The idea is that automatically reducing the file sizes of images and videos will help keep Verizon’s tubes from getting clogged. The carrier also attempts to skirt claims of net neutrality foul play by stating that its optimization process is agnostic to content and the Websites it is coming from. Further, while “any change to the file is likely to be indiscernible,” you may notice some “minimal impact” on appearance. The document does not specifically warn owners of the iPhone 4 and its high-resolution Retina display, but it probably should.

As noted in our review of the Verizon iPhone 4, the carrier has long implemented another technique—disallowing simultaneous voice and data usage—to keep its network running smoothly. AT&T, on the other hand, does allow calls to be placed while using the data network. This feature is often cited as both a blessing and a curse in light of the constant criticism of its network’s performance.

The second new network management practice Verizon announced in this document, and one that the carrier ties specifically to a launch date of February 3 (the first day that Verizon began offering pre-orders for its version of the iPhone 4), is bandwidth throttling for heavy users. “If you use an extraordinary amount of data and fall within the top 5 percent of Verizon Wireless data users,” the document says, “we may reduce your data throughput speeds periodically.” Verizon says it will police your data connection only during your current billing cycle and the cycle that follows, though, so it sounds like heavy users won’t be placed on a permanent black list.

Verizon finishes with a very Vulcan justification for its practice of throttling the few for the good of the many. “Our proactive management of the Verizon Wireless network,” the document reads, “is designed to ensure that the remaining 95% of data customers aren't negatively affected by the inordinate data consumption of just a few users.”

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