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Verizon Tweaks Data Policies in Anticipation of iPhone Launch

in Mobile Broadband/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2011 - Verizon announced Thursday two major changes to its wireless internet policies that will allow the carrier to handle a higher volume of traffic only days before the launch of the Verizon-compatible iPhone.

In order to “provide customers the best experience,” the carrier announced it would begin throttling wireless internet connections to customers with the highest data use and would send leaner traffic across its network.

Throttling is a technique by which an internet service provider slows down traffic across its network.  The practice came under fire when customers of cable internet provider, Comcast, alleged that the company throttled data from companies competing with its television and voice products.  When used without deference to the type of data sent, throttling can help manage a high volume of network traffic.

Industry and consumer analysts have predicted a high number of iPhone users who are unhappy with service on AT&T, the handset's only network provider, to switch to Verizon once the phone becomes available on its network next week.  Much speculation has surrounded the question of whether an influx of iPhone users threatens to strangle Verizon's network, much as it did to AT&T's network in the early days of the handset.

For customers who subscribe to a data plan on or after February 3, Verizon will begin periodically throttling the top 5 percent of data users.  The throttling will occur across all of the user's data will not slow down one type of content over another.  Verizon attributed the change to ensuring that limited bandwidth resources are shared equally among all its users.  A Verizon spokesman was unable to verify whether existing customers would be subject to the new plan when they renew their contracts.

Verizon will also change how it processes data across its network by installing software to allow for the faster flow of traffic.  According to a statement by the company, “[t]hese techniques include caching less data, using less capacity, and sizing the video more appropriately for the device. The optimization process is agnostic to the content itself and to the website that provides it.”

A detailed technical explanation of the specific optimization techniques can be found at:

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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