Verizon Wireless confirmed this past Friday that it will being throttling speeds for its customers who have yet to renew their wireless contract and have grandfathered into unlimited data. Of course, the communications giant refers to the reduction of speed as "Network Optimization" since it will reportedly only affect the top five percent of mobile data consumers (i.e. those who use greater than 4.7GB of data per month over the 4G LTE network) and only if said users are gobbling up data while connected to a congested cell site. Verizon says these users will begin to see a decrease in performance while streaming high-definition video and gaming over the network, though it is unclear how dramatically speeds will be slowed. Similar throttling has affected 3G users since 2011, when the company stopped offering unlimited data packages. The next phase of Network Optimization will go into affect October 2014.
Since the reduction in speed does not affect users one-hundred percent of the time, Verizon adamantly denies speeds are being throttled. However, by definition and according to the majority of consumers, bandwidth throttling is quite simply "the intentional slowing of Internet service by an Internet service provider." It is implemented for the sole purpose of managing traffic on a network. Netflix has recently accused Verizon of throttling network speeds for their subscribers in what continues to be an ugly battle for net neutrality.
While the announcement in itself is not at all surprising, the timing certainly is. Verizon is currently touting their new double-bandwidth XLTE network, promising even faster peak data speeds than their current LTE offering in high traffic areas. In addition, the White House recently issued a statement resulting from a popular We The People petition, commending Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. While Verizon likely anticipates losing customers over this throttling announcement, one could argue it is exactly what they want to happen. The company has aggressively converted its existing subscribers to tiered data plans. In fact, less than twenty-two percent of Verizon's customers still have unlimited data. Compare that to forty-four percent of AT&T customers and an astonishing seventy-eight percent of both Sprint and T-Mobile; it increasingly clear that Verizon would like to push these users out to make room for new tiered data customers who often struggle to stay within their imposed data limits and wind up paying fees for going over.