Verizon, which is preparing for a surge in wireless Internet use as it starts shipping iPhones, is taking the unusual (but hardly unprecedented) step of reserving the right to slow data service for its heaviest users. Should you care about such “throttling” (the industry’s term, not ours)?
Yes and no. Yes, because consumers who are thinking about switching to Verizon are being put on notice that they may run into trouble using their smartphones’ most demanding capacities – notably, streaming video – at peak hours. If you don’t want to risk slowdowns, buy service from another carrier. On second thought, better just to trim your expectations: none of the other carriers can guarantee blinding speed 100 percent of the time.
No, in the sense it is in the interest of everybody on Verizon’s network for the company to manage traffic so that nobody is denied service when it runs out of bandwidth. What else would you have Verizon do? Drop calls? Randomly block key data services like email for those at the back of the queue?
Some supporters of “net neutrality” will no doubt complain since Verizon is practicing what might be called discrimination in an effort to ration scarce bandwidth. But they’re unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing from the FCC, which would permit throttling under its proposed Internet rules. All we can ask for is transparency: If the telcos want to manage their wireless networks this way, they need to make their policies clear upfront. The government, for its part, should work to make throttling less likely by auctioning more bandwidth to the highest bidders.