If you’re a loyal Verizon customer who loves high quality streaming on mobile devices, the end is nigh. The reason being that Verizon is now throttling video streams on smartphones as low as 480p with some data plans getting as high as 720p. In the era of 4K–much less 1080p, this news is very dire seeing how customers won’t have any options to “opt out”.
With tablets, 1080p will be available, but 4K will not be available on Verizon’s mobile network. The company is giving out a 10Mbps cap of bandwidth for videos, and even hotspot sharing will be affected.
While Verizon started selling smartphone data plans this February, at the time they said that they would not limit or downgrade streaming video quality. Verizon was recorded telling Ars Technica that they “deliver whatever the content provider gives us. We don’t manipulate the data.”
However, now starting yesterday Verizon is going back on its word and changing things for new and existing customers. The cheapest single-line plan will cost 75$ a month which includes 480p on phones and 720p on tablets (an additional $20 a month–mind you).
If a customer wants to get access to 720p video for a smartphone, and 1080p on a tablet, they need to pay an extra $10 a month which is called the “Beyond Unlimited plan”–costing a total of $85 a month and an additional $20 for tablet internet. Verizon rationalizes the decision by explaining that customers can’t notice the difference between 720p on small phones versus 1080p on tablets.
If you’re already a customer with a data plan, now your video streaming for your phone will be reduced from 1080p to 720p, regardless of your plan.
“Moving forward, HD video on all legacy plans will also match Beyond Unlimited’s HD quality,” Verizon said. The 480p limit also willy apply to current or new prepaid plans. Verizon has made these decisions by understanding consumer data. “More than 96 percent of customers have not used 4K video.” Now, in 2017, and soon 2018, where more and more phones have high quality HD OLED displays, even less people will be utilizing 4K video with Verizon’s new enforcement plans.
Why is Verizon making these changes?
Well, they want to limit bandwidth and prevent congestion, of course. “We’re doing this to ensure all customers have a great experience on our network since there is no visible difference in quality on a smartphone or tablet when video is shown at higher resolutions than 720p on phones and 1080p on tablets,” explained Verizon in their announcement.
Verizon and AT&T now both offer unlimited data plans, as well as T-Mobile. T-Mobile also charges more for HD viewing.
Verizon first started testing this “data throttling” last month, and we reported on it when Reddit users found that they could increase speeds by using a VPN like TorGuard. At that time, Verizon had capped speeds at 10Mbps, which caused some advocacy groups to call out Verizon on breaking net neutrality rules. However, at the time Verizon denied breaking any laws.
“Current net neutrality rules clearly state that providers may employ reasonable network management practices to ensure that their networks and services run efficiently and work well for their customers… Video optimization is a non-discriminatory network management practice designed to ensure a high quality customer experience for all customers accessing the shared resources of our wireless network.”
However, Verizon does seem to be straddling the line with these new “optimizations” and changes. Current FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, even wants to eliminate rules allowing companies like Verizon to change data caps.
While it’s easy to paint Verizon as this evil entity, other companies like the aforementioned T-Mobile and AT&T are also doing similar things with user data that is becoming more and more questionable. In the age of 4K and enhanced viewing experiences, do we really want to be lowering video quality for customers? Perhaps the easiest solution is to simply switch on your VPN service and bypass all video throttling.