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Verizon iPhone users might get "throttled"

An Apple employee displays an iPhone showing the Verizon wireless network January 11, 2011, in New York City. In a long-anticipated move, Verizon and Apple have announced that Apple's popular iPhone mobile phone will be offered on a Verizon's phone network.

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Bob Moon: OK, admittedly, this is not news: Verizon's iPhone has sold at record speed. Duh. But if you're keeping track, the company says it ran out of pre-orders in less than a day. The real news turns out to be a surprise that could curb the enthusiasm of some buyers.

Seems Verizon has slipped in a change to its data policy: Download too much and you might get "throttled." That's not so much a personal threat, as it is a technical term. Here's Marketplace's Adriene Hill.


Adriene Hill: Being "throttled" basically means your wireless carrier slows down the speed that you can download data. And Verizon's new policy gives the company the right to do just that, at least for the really hardcore data junkies out there.

But, says company spokesman Jeffery Nelson, Verizon's not doing it now, and even with all the iPhone traffic coming online...

Jeffrey Nelson: We do not expect any time soon to need to implement the network management policies we have introduced.

Nelson says the other major carriers already have this sort of provision, and Verizon has to have a policy in place to make sure that all customers get good service.

As for knowing what sort of downloading might trigger a "throttle," maybe a whole lot of video or gaming or something else?

Nelson: They are such important questions, but they are unknown at this point.

And that's a problem, says Glenn Fleishman. He's a freelance journalist and blogger who covers the wireless industry.

Glenn Fleishman: Verizon isn't in the wrong to set a limit, they're making it harder on their customers by not providing clear guidance on what that means.

Think of an unlimited data plan like an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant. There is, at some level, a limited amount of bandwidth for mobile phones, like there's a limited amount of food at the restaurant.

Fleishman: I've gone back 20 times to the all-you-can-eat-buffet, any reasonable person would say that's unreasonable.

But, what counts as an unreasonable data appetite, Fleishman says, is not a decision we can trust phone carriers to make in favor of customers.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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