Technology: Verizon cracking down on bandwidth hogs? The horror!
The Interwebs went into high dudgeon Thursday after Andrew Munchbach at Boy Genius reported that Verizon Wireless had started cracking down on data hogs. The new policy -- limiting the bandwith for customers who send and receive more data than 95% of the other customers, and compressing video-on-demand streams -- drew complaints from numerous consumers who argue that "unlimited" data plans should actually be, well, unlimited.
Here's a typical one, which reader "FutureUser" offered on my colleague Nate Olivarez-Giles' post for The Times' Technology blog:
This could have a HUGE negative impact on small businesses that send/receive highly dense files for video editing, photo rendering, advertising, generating printed material, etc. There is simply no way to know, in advance and as a "blind" or neutral 3rd-party, what content changes will affect which users and devices.
Or as "Funky Frank" commented on Muchbach's post:
"Unlimited Data" on Sprint 4G means you can hook up a Roku Box up to a TV and stream Netflix in 720p.
Thanks Verizon for making the decision for me.
To which I say, why use a mobile network for that?
I know, I know -- we'd all like to see more competition for DSL and cable-modem services, and the wireless companies' 4G networks offer hope on that front. They're just not there yet. I recently tested 4G USB modems from T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, checking their performance as I rode the Gold Line and as I sat at my desk in downtown Los Angeles. Although the former occasionally performed as well as my DSL modem at home and the latter did far better at times, neither did so reliably or predictably. For example, one morning on the Gold Line the Verizon modem delivered a stunning 24 Mbps, but my bandwidth dropped to 1 Mbps a few minutes later when the train pulled into Union Station.
The brilliance of these networks isn't how well they compare (at times) to wired broadband or Wi-Fi ones. It's their ability to provide great connectivity for mobile users. So I'm not at all offended by the thought of Verizon Wireless charging people more to spend hours downloading movie torrents or watching cable TV feeds from their Slingboxes. I like the idea of having plenty of bandwidth when I listen to a Slacker webcast, download a bus schedule or read a menu online with my smartphone.
I understand a small business' need for predictability, as FutureUser describes. But if its employees are going to send big data files from the road day in and day out, it should expect to pay more for that privilege than companies whose workers just read e-mails on the road. It's a cost of doing business.
If I'm being selfish, well, I'm not alone. As reader "PT" put it on Nate's post:
I actually think that this is a good idea because it only limits the proportionate few so that everyone else can have a smoother experience. It looks like Verizon is learning some valuable lessons from observing AT&T.
Amen to that.
-- Jon Healey
Credit: George Frey / Getty Images