As of today, Verizon Wireless says it may start “throttling” service to the 5% of its customers who consume the most data over its network.
Today is also the first day that people can pre-order the new Verizon iPhone. A Verizon spokesman told the Wall St. Journal that this is just a coincidence.
A move like this indicates that Verizon is concerned about growing network congestion, which affects service to all customers. And they should be. But the way they’re going about it is pretty frustrating…
Until more LTE and other higher-speed wireless broadband networks get rolled out, and more devices are introduced to run on them, and more people actually buy and use those new devices, mobile network traffic jams are likely. But right now Verizon and the other carriers are pushing data-intensive smartphones like crazy, because they make lots of money on the data plans.
That means slow-loading pages or streaming media. That means slow file upload and downloads. That means mobile maps that don’t keep pace with your changing location. That means lost connections and a lot of things that just don’t work. That means a lot of unhappy customers.
Verizon doesn’t explain exactly what it means by “throttling.” It doesn’t specify what level of data usage might bump a customer into that top 5% — and over what period of time this benchmark is gauged. It doesn’t say whether customers will be notified that they’re being throttled, or when they’re getting close to that territory. It doesn’t tell customers specific things to do to avoid getting throttled. And it doesn’t say whether it will confirm if specific customers have been throttled.
Basically, Verizon is reserving the right to provide inferior service to the people who use their service most — with no notification, and no clear way to know what the borderline is or how to tell if you’re getting there. Even if you monitor your data usage through their mobile app, you still don’t know what their dividing line is and when you might cross it.
Which sounds suspiciously like a strategy to lower customer expectations of network performance, rather than a way to actually manage network traffic.
Personally, I think tiered data plans are a more customer-friendly approach to preventing network congestion while being fair to customers and giving them options.
But I think still that Lily Tomlin nails the phone company’s mindset to customer service best.