Verizon to introduce video streaming limits on "unlimited" plans

23 August 2017 | James Pearce

Verizon is set to throttle video streaming for some of its customers, claiming up to 96% of its base has never watched 4K content, according to reports.

The US operator has overhauled its data plans, axing its unlimited wireless offer in favour of three different plans, with video streaming limited to 480p on the cheapest plan, Go Unlimited.

The offers include unlimited 4G data, but in a move that will anger supporters of net neutrality, Verizon could reduce speeds at times when its network is congested. This means customers could experience lower speeds at any point in their billing cycle, not just when they have used a substantial amount of data.

All smartphone streaming is limited to “DVD-quality” on this package, with HD (720p) available on tablets, and seemingly no way to watch higher resolutions.

The next package, Beyond Unlimited, will see customers only experience network congestion once they have exceeded 22GB of usage in a billing cycle, but streaming is limited to HD video on smartphones (720p) and Full HD 1080p on tablets.

Verizon said: “Beginning August 23, Verizon unlimited is evolving into Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited and Business Unlimited.  Unlimited on Verizon gives you more choices on the network built for you.

“These plans give you the best unlimited choices, but you also get what only Verizon can give you: the best network, the best rewards program, the best way to manage your plan with the My Verizon app and the best selection of phones and devices.”

Previously, unlimited plans did not include caps on mobile video, and these customer will be entitled to keep their current plans, according to The Verge.

These plans would have potentially been questionable under previous regulatory regimes, given the Federal Communications Commission’s previous position on net neutrality and throttling. However, current chairman Ajit Pai is looking to roll back the regulators involvement and scale down net neutrality rules, meaning Verizon is less likely to face intervention.

Even if Pai was a supporter of net neutrality, regulations allow telecoms operators to introduce “reasonable network management” practices in order to ensure performance.

What will potentially prove controversial is the fact that Verizon could be limiting video streaming quality for all existing customers on unlimited plans to a maximum of 720p. “Moving forward, HD video on all legacy plans will also match Beyond Unlimited’s HD quality.”

Ars Technica claims the streaming limits will be introduced through restrictions on bandwidth, meaning tethering will also be restricted, and video apps will have to adjust themselves. 

Defending its position, Verizon reportedly said: “More than 96 percent of customers have not used 4K video."

Topics: Verizon, US, video, streaming, throttling, 4K, FCC, Ajit Pai