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Verizon Throttles Data To "Provide Incentive To Limit Usage" 316

Posted by timothy
from the tell-me-more-about-the-word-unlimited dept.
An anonymous reader writes About a week ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked for Verizon's justification on its policy of throttling users who pay for unlimited data usage. "I know of no past Commission statement that would treat 'as reasonable network management' a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for 'unlimited' service," the FCC wrote. In its response, Verizon has indicated that its throttling policy is meant to provide users with an incentive to limit their data usage. The company explained that "a small percentage of the customers on these [unlimited] plans use disproportionately large amounts of data, and, unlike subscribers on usage-based plans, they have no incentive not to do so during times of unusually high demand....our practice is a measured and fair step to ensure that this small group of customers do not disadvantage all others."
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Verizon Throttles Data To "Provide Incentive To Limit Usage"

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  • by TheRealQuestor (1750940) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:32PM (#47611289)
    We kick you in the head because we care!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:57PM (#47611423)

      We give you tiny plate at all-you-can-eat buffet because we care.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      I was thinking the same thing about restaurants with "all you can eat" deals. :) Mostly because I'm hungry and haven't eaten since lunch time. :)

    • by mikeiver1 (1630021) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @11:45PM (#47611617)
      I have a Verizon account with 2 cells and one data card on the unlimited plan. I pay $216 a month for the whole thing. In the past they were to only internet I could get in the third world city of Santa Ana, CA that we lived in. We used to stream netflix and game on the connection, sometimes running well into the high teens of GB. I did get a notice from them to the effect that they were going to cap or throttle me should this continue. I responded that a lawsuit for breach of contract sounded fun and that I would be happy to take them there after contacting the press. I informed them that I had logs from my DEDICATED firewall showing the average transfer rates and volumes etc over past months and I would be happy to see them in court in front of a jury of "my" peers. It was not to long after that that the tower that they leased was dropped and the signal went to crap in our area. So fuck them I says, I built a very high gain Yagi/Uda and put it on the roof facing the tower that I now had to hit. I went from -103dBm to -52dBm and got the bit rate back up. I then started downloading ISOs for fun and pulled down near 23GB that month. All the while logging. They then called me again and I promptly told them that unlimited was what I signed on for and I was paying for. I was using 3G and they had 4G rolled in the area. I suggested that they move me to the 4g or stop calling and wasting both our time. They chose option 2. The phone, electric, banks, and gas companies are out of control but they pay big sums to the assholes on the hill so they can be. The load is transferred to the assholes of the middle class. Half the time I feel like I am going to burp up corporate cum from getting fucked so hard from so many different companies and the governments.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @03:33AM (#47612145)

      It seems very clear. If Verizon thinks it's okay to throttle bandwidth to "provide incentive to limit usage", then when it comes time to pay the bill, pay only 70-80% to "provide incentive to lower your monthly bill".

    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @03:58AM (#47612197)

      It seems to me that Verison's problem is on the marketing side. Their technical implementation is correct.

      This is basic QoS. For a simplified example, let's assume there are only two users (but the network is still congested). One is trying to download a fix amount of data, i.e. watch a certain number of YouTube videos. Let's call her the "limited" user. The other is trying to download as many linux-distribution isos as she possibly can. Let's call her the "unlimited" user. (We assume that the carrier can guess which user is which, based in historical bandwidth use.)

      If the carrier throttles both users equally - what some would consider the "fair" solution - then the limited user will have to wait while her videos buffer (but we will assume that she still watches the number of videos that she had decided on). The amount of data that the unlimited user can download equals total network capacity minus the size of the YouTube videos.

      If the carrier only throttles the unlimited user, then the limited user gets a better experience, but still watches the same number of videos, i.e. downloads the same amount of data during the period of the congestion. The amount of data that the unlimited user can download still equals total network capacity minus the size of the videos, so she doesn't actually get any negative effect from the "unfair" throttling.

      (The above reasoning holds even if the unlimited user is also watching video, if we assume that she has a large enough buffer. But if both users are doing video conferencing, then it would be better to throttle both equally.)

      Of course, the best solution would be to upgrade the network to 4G, and this is what the FCC should force the providers to do.

      • by N1AK (864906)

        It seems to me that Verison's problem is on the marketing side. Their technical implementation is correct.

        Pretty much, although it is a little more than 'marketting' when a company sells you 'unlimited internet' but doesn't provide that. The issue pretty much boils down to the fact that for 99%+ of users 100GB a month would be plenty, but those users want the security of knowing that their policy is 'unlimited' so they won't a surprise charge if they use more than normal. 'Unllimited' is the wrong word to u

      • First of all, you don't understand what "basic QoS" is. Second, you're conflating the amount of data usage with the type of data usage. Let's try switching the types of data for the two users, and then see if your example is still reasonable:

        This is basic QoS. For a simplified example, let's assume there are only two users (but the network is still congested). One is trying to download a fix amount of data, i.e. [download a certain number of linux-distribution isos] . Let's call her the "limited" user. The

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:35PM (#47611299)

    I've seen much bigger problems with cell phone internet than this. For instance, there's the tactic of selling "4G" service with the caveat that you get 4G speeds on "preferred websites" for the first 200MB, and then get throttled down. Give us net neutrality on phones first, then start working on regulating how they can sell it.

  • Except,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:37PM (#47611315) Journal

    If they don't actually have the resources to offer plans to subscribers without the disincentive of additional fees, then they shouldn't be offering such plans to customers in the first place.

    Of course, both fees and throttling can equally be considered as disincentives, and the entire notion behind "unlimited" plans is that you wouldn't have to deal with any unexpected disincentives to continue use.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Verizon is still providing unlimited data, as much as the user can download. It is only the speed of the download that is changing. Did the original service agreement provide for maximum available bandwidth, or a guaranteed minimum bandwidth? If not then the problem is only with the perception of the user.

      I'm not a customer and not a heavy user so I don't know what the level of "throttling" really is and if the throttled rate is still useful. Say I got 50Mbps and it was throttled to 25Mbps, but still un

      • Verizon is still providing unlimited data, as much as the user can download.

        What a bunch of bullshit. When you think of "unlimited," you don't think that they'll throttle you so hard your connection is useless anyway. This is just corporate lying.

        • Re:Except,,, (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @06:14AM (#47612547) Homepage

          Too true. And when I go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, I expect to be able to take the entirety of all of the food in the buffet, throw it in garbage bags, and carry them to my table, denying everyone else in the restaurant anything to eat.

          Yeah, that works.

          You know what really works? People using common sense and realizing that there is no such thing as "unlimited" bandwidth, food, or anything else. When such services are advertised I think we all realize, or at least the reasonable among us realize, that "unlimted" means "much more than the average consumer would utilize, and thus from the perspective of the average consumer, unlimited", not "as much as you can possibly use".

          Who doesn't realize that limiting the highest users is sometimes necessary to ensure quality of service for everyone? Hey I paid my Verizon bill too, how come my service is slower because some dork has to torrent down 100 movies per month to add to his never-watched "collection"? Shouldn't I be complaining also about not getting the quality of service *I* paid for?

          • Re:Except,,, (Score:4, Insightful)

            by jeIIomizer (3670945) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @06:25AM (#47612569)

            You know what really works? People using common sense and realizing that there is no such thing as "unlimited" bandwidth, food, or anything else.

            Then stop advertising it as such. "common sense" is nonsense, and I'm tired of people using a phrase that could literally mean anything. Popularity is irrelevant, and since what is believed to be "common sense" is often nonsensical, it's just not a very good term.

          • Re:Except,,, (Score:4, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:50AM (#47613125) Homepage Journal

            Too true. And when I go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, I expect to be able to take the entirety of all of the food in the buffet, throw it in garbage bags, and carry them to my table, denying everyone else in the restaurant anything to eat.

            That's a dumb metaphor, because the customers are using provided plates. It's like they're providing you a plate the size of your table, then insisting you put no more than one cup of food on it at a time.

      • Well the contracts remain month to month after their term, unless you upgrade your phone or change your plan in some way. Those of us who are fighting to keep the unlimited plan have to buy retail price phones to upgrade.

        So short answer, yes, they kinda were that stupid.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        Obviously "unlimited" is limited to whatever capacity their network can stand, but this is *deliberate* throttling... and is functionally no different from charging limited data plan subscribers extra fees for going over their allocated limits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:40PM (#47611325)

    ...if the government would just cut the crap, close the loophole, and apply the common carrier designation to these greedy service providers.

    Unfortunately, America is the greatest country in the world that money can buy.

  • cretinous because (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:40PM (#47611337)

    All they need to do is state a limit (200G 500G, 2T?, ...) at which throttling will kick in, and stop lying about 'unlimited'. American corporations are so addicted to getting away with telling lies that they don't seem to even know when they're doingit.

    • by s4m7 (519684)
      Well, that's exactly what they're doing. The problem is they're doing it to those of us users who already have unlimited plans which they don't sell anymore, but are paying month to month and buying phones elsewhere to keep our contracts from being re-written. They won't be throttling the new "unlimited" customers because there aren't any.
      • The thing is, you're on a month to month contract. The honest thing for Verizon to do is simply cancel those contracts, admit that they are not willing to invest enough in infrastructure to accommodate unlimited plans, and take the temporary PR hit.

        Instead they have chosen the path of a thousand papercuts. Every so often them try to screw those still on unlimited plans, and every time it causes some sort of PR headache.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          I think they can handle "unlimited" plans, the problem is with users who think unlimited means maximum bandwidth and no limits on how much data is downloaded a month, whereas the ISPs really intended for unlimited to mean how much data can be downloaded a month. Even a dialup plan can be unlimited. Everyone I *hope* understood that "unlimited" did not mean "infinite" no matter what metric they thought it applied to.

          • by Nemyst (1383049)
            "Unlimited" means "limited by the physical nature of the connection", in essence. We all agree that you can't break the laws of physics and get more data per month than your connection can handle. Therefore, if my connection is 20Mbps down, I should be able to take 20Mbps down 24/7 for the whole month. THAT is unlimited.

            If Verizon can't handle that, they should put a cap on it and be honest that it's not an unlimited plan. You can't have it both ways.
            • Three things:

              1. These unlimited contracts came into being at a time when 3G radios had just come out, so the amount of traffic any one device could produce on their network was an order of magnitude less than what they can today with LTE. It would be reasonable for Verizon to say that the plan is unlimited at 2008 bandwidths.
              2. I don't recall these unlimited plans as even having a bandwidth number attached to them. Do you?
              3. Speaking strictly about wireline ISPs, no wireline ISP sells a consumer grade plan as 20M
              • by TyFoN (12980)
                Wire-line ISP, you mean the ones connecting fiber and copper?
                If so, my provider sells me 100/100 mbit 24/7 unlimited that I pay about $80/month for.
                My record is 15 TB data transfer in one month, which according to the logs averaged out at about 50/50 for the whole month.

                I have never heard them talk about caps or limits when I am on the phone with them. I even called them to cancel their TV service since I am only streaming and downloading. They said nothing but cancelled the TV.

                My $30/month mobile plan only
              • by dkf (304284)

                Speaking strictly about wireline ISPs, no wireline ISP sells a consumer grade plan as 20Mbps for 24/7 usage.

                Mine did, but doesn't now: their lowest grade plan is now faster than that. The upper tiers might have throttling, but I don't thing the base grade tier can hit the level at which they care.

                But then I'm not in the US. We have real competition between communications providers.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      What user honestly thought that "unlimited" meant "unlimited bandwidth"? I remember some of these people whining when their fast internet got slow merely because their neighbors started using the shared cables. What was unlimited was the cap on how much data could be downloaded per month, not a cap on the actual speed.

  • Funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheDarkMaster (1292526) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:41PM (#47611343)
    So... In short, the company wants me to pay full price for the service and expect me to not use it? I pay for a car, but I can not use it? Ok, I give up trying to understand the humans...
    • by Nyder (754090)

      So... In short, the company wants me to pay full price for the service and expect me to not use it? I pay for a car, but I can not use it? Ok, I give up trying to understand the humans...

      Corporations are not humans. And while I know you are trying to be funny, it's not a funny matter, it's serious. The Corporate Greed Culture has gone overboard, and this is a prime example of it.

  • by bondsbw (888959) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @10:43PM (#47611355)

    Do the top users somehow get 100 Mbps during a time when I can only get 2 Mbps? If so, why is this allowed? If not, why is it a problem?

    I don't recall any wireless service claiming that unlimited data would guarantee unlimited bandwidth (which is physically impossible). They usually use terms like "up to X Mbps", based on various factors such as signal strength and usage... so during peak times, everyone's bandwidth goes down equally.

    • by dunkindave (1801608) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @11:05PM (#47611441)
      Except what Verizon is doing is throttling only people with "unlimited" plans during peak times. People on paid usage plans are not subject to the same throttling. This isn't apparent throttling because of congestion, this is Verizon actively saying that because you have an unlimited plan, they will not allow you to use the available bandwidth, while if you drop the unlimited plan and subscribe to a metered plan then you CAN use the available bandwidth. Unfortunately the quote by the Commissioner is being dropped in these later articles where he said that he can see no legitimate claim for reasonable network management to be based on which plan a user subscribes to.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I would be in favor of throttling them after they exceed a certain download amount. Ie, first they have to prove that they're a heavy user.

        Ie, they get exactly the same service as most normal non-entitled humans until they reach the normal human data cap. Once they hit that then their service is throttled, and the good thing is that they're still more special than normal humans like you or me in that they continue getting huge amounts of data without paying metered penalty rates only it comes slower (stil

    • The bottom line is that without upgrading their networks, they can't provide the promised service to 100% of their customers. Divide and conquer. Cut off a small fraction of people they feel they can label as "greedy", and hurt them most, rather than admit they're in default on their contract obligations and upgrade their network. /. can kick and scream all they want, but idiots in Congress will happily buy it all up and ignore dissent like they do every time.

      • by unrtst (777550)

        The bottom line is that without upgrading their networks, they can't provide the promised service to 100% of their customers.

        Wrong (AFAICT).

        They are actively throttling users. That is not the same as their network being unable to handle it, or for congestion to affect many users.

        The users with metered plans are not being throttled. They may be using even more. Everyone could do that, and they would not throttle the metered users because they want that additional money. The unlimitted users are getting throttled when they hit some cap of MB/month. That's not unlimitted. Unlimitted would mean they should behave just like the metere

    • You may remember the Shannonâ"Hartley theorem from engineering class as it relates to the bandwidth of a given channel. Well with radio transmission, this becomes something you really have to think about. SNR is set by environmental noise and FCC transmission limits. Spectrum is something you only have a license to a small amount of. As such, the total bandwidth you can put out has a hard limit on it. Everyone on a tower shares that bandwidth and there's just nothing you can do to increase it. You can'

      • by whoever57 (658626)
        Sharing the finite bandwidth amongst customers is fine. Giving a lower share because that customer is on an unlimited contract is where the problem lies.
      • Spectrum is something you only have a license to a small amount of. As such, the total bandwidth you can put out has a hard limit on it. Everyone on a tower shares that bandwidth and there's just nothing you can do to increase it. You can't "lay more fiber" or "use another laser" or anything like that which you can do on wired connections. On a given segment, there is just only so much bandwidth nature and regulations will let you have.

        The solution is to add more cells (towers). That's the whole idea beh

      • Available user bandwidth = total tower bandwidth / number of users. Given that total tower bandwidth is limited by spectrum allocation the easiest way to increase user bandwidth is to reduce the service radius of the towers (by having more towers, each cell smaller) so that the number of users per tower is smaller. The cheapest way is to throttle users. If the cell companies don't feel like spending to upgrade their network to be sufficient to handle what they are selling then they should find a way to g
        • Available user bandwidth = total tower bandwidth / number of users. Given that total tower bandwidth is limited by spectrum allocation the easiest way to increase user bandwidth is to reduce the service radius of the towers (by having more towers, each cell smaller) so that the number of users per tower is smaller. The cheapest way is to throttle users.

          Along the same lines, when a cell phone network knows a tower is at full capacity, it should reject new customers that reside or work near such a tower.

      • Well with radio transmission, this becomes something you really have to think about.

        [...]

        So the more grabby people get with that bandwidth, the less there is to go around. If someone is using as much as they can because they have their phone hooked to their computer doing torrents, that slows everyone else down, even if you are are just using it in small spurts to check your e-mail.

        Unfortunately, that's not how this works in real life.

        My so-called 4G "unlimited" plan from T-Mobile gives me 2.5 gigs per month of data (initially it was a 5 gigs cap), and then after that, it's supposed to give me 3G speed. But it doesn't, after my initial "unlimited" cap is reached, only Facebook works anymore, my email doesn't, google maps doesn't, and my web browser doesn't. And the 3G speed it gives Facebook is actually pretty good, it's good enough to download and upload many pictures, but that 3G sp

  • 1. incentive for customers to sue for breach of contract
    2. incentive for customers to take their business elsewhere.

    I have no sympathy for Verizon.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      1. incentive for customers to sue for breach of contract

      It's not breach of contract, because the contract and terms of use says they can do (basically) whatever they like in terms of throttling.

      It is deceptive advertising, because they are selling it as an Unlimited service. The FTC should be on their ass for telling bold faced lies in the way they describe their service marketingwise and in the ad material.

  • Verizon has indicated that its throttling policy is meant to provide users with an incentive to limit their data usage

    This is mostly about the fact that their business model is based on over-subscription, and they make their money by lying about what they're really selling you.

    A user who has paid for unlimited bandwidth doesn't want or need an incentive to use less bandwidth -- this is just weaseling out of the contract by making sure you can't actually get that unlimited data.

    They feed us horseshit while s

  • I would rather pay for a set bandwidth, unlimited usage at that bandwidth level, than "faster, but you get charged penalties for exceeding your monthly cap."

    My DSL used to be unlimited, _real_ unlimited, and I miss that type of service/honesty/product.

  • Loony as a tune (Score:5, Informative)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @11:31PM (#47611571)

    Verizon is just plain psychotic. When they were advertising the upcoming 4G LTE service years ago, their advertising copy said users would be able to stream video and download HD movies. All kinds of wonderful things that weren't possible with the new caps they'd put on 3G. Then they rolled out LTE with the same caps as 3G. So, sure you could download Air Bud in HD but that'd be your data for the month.

    Now they're all excited about XLTE doubling (or more) the speed available thru Verizon's network. I've seen those speeds and they're amazing. Absolutely freaking amazing. And totally useless to anyone without an unlimited account. WTF is a new customer supposed to do with 80 Mb/s down and 40 Mb/s up? That's the kind of speed I saw near Atlanta. Holy Hell, that's fast. Faster than any wired service I've had. And totally useless if you can only move 2 gigs a month. Why are they spending all this money speeding up their network when it's wasted on their customers. It's crazy.

    And the numbers Verizon is throwing around don't make a lick of sense. (Of course, I can't find the exact numbers now so I'll guestimate.) They say around 20% of their customer base still has unlimited data. They say 95% of those people use less than 5 gigs of data per billing cycle. If those two statements are true, why is Verizon upset? They should be ecstatic. They cut off unlimited data in 2010 so they're claiming an amazing retention rate. And the vast, vast, vast majority of those people are overpaying for what they use. And they're paying full MSRP for unsubsidized equipment. Why on earth would Verizon want to rock that boat?

    • Just to force a car analogy, what good is a Ferrari if all you get is a gallon of gas?

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Why are they spending all this money speeding up their network when it's wasted on their customers. It's crazy.

      If customers are stupid enough to pay more money for the faster speeds that they aren't allowed to use, then Verizon would be stupid not to take their money...

  • Keep voting, sheep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ourlovecanlastforeve (795111) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @12:25AM (#47611723)

    What I don't understand is how we're still allowing carriers to call their service "unlimited."

    When I pay my water bill and I am told I get unlimited water, I don't expect the water company to decrease the flow of water to a trickle if I take too many showers.

    If they did that, there would be an uprising.

    When I pay the electric company for electricity I don't expect them to decrease the voltage on my line if I leave the TV on while I'm sleeping.

    So... how is it that Verizon gets to tell me I am paying for unlimited data, but not provide unlimited data?

    Where is the uprising for this lie?

  • "...our practice is a measured and fair step to ensure that this small group of customers do not disadvantage all others."

    Because if anyone is going to be putting someone at a disadvantage, that's going to be us.

    Sincerely,

    Verizon

    P.S. Fuck You

  • Because now people would have to download everything, e.g. while sleeping, so they can check whether they need it when they are actually at the machine. What I predict is people downloading everything that looks remotely like they might want to see it automated, e.g. while at work or sleeping, then checking it when they get to their machine, most likely throwing out 99%.

    Well, at least that's what I would do.

  • Then dont offer flatrates. I am perfectly fine with paying per GB. But i am not fine with paying for a flatrate, and when i hit an (conditions undisclosed or changing) limit, the providers decides (based on his calculation what a GB *should* cost) to do weird shit with my packets.

    That being said, I believe everybody would be better off without flatrates. The people who need much less transfer than the provider includes in the flatrate calculation, and the providers, since the people would really have incent

  • ...but I actually don't use more than about 600MB per month on average. I could have a newer plan and it wouldn't matter, but they charge exactly the same for their lowest current data tier ($30/mo) as I am paying for unlimited. I'm keeping it on principle.

  • No matter how little bandwidth customers use, some of them will always be in the top 5%!

  • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @10:54AM (#47614163)

    Network management is a real thing. Like any network (internet, roads, trains...) you need to manage it for load/safety...

    Unlimited usage simply means that you can use it as much as you want.

    I can use the public roads as much as I want. It doesn't mean there are no traffic lights, accidents, speed limits, speed bumps...

    Throttling is going to happen. The only thing that matters is what kind.

    Throttling specific content is probably bad policy as you can run into anti-competitive practice. Things like throttling netflix traffic as a cable company.

    Throttling heavy users as network capacity becomes an issue (maybe > 70%) is probably quite sane.

    This allows a simple billing policy as well. You don't need to worry about overage charges or anything like that.

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.

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