verizon horns

It's impossible for new customers to buy unlimited mobile data from Verizon. But this wasn't always the case: back in the glory days of, uh, 2010 and earlier, Verizon Wireless was still offering true unlimited data for as little as $30 a month. It's been increasingly hard for users who want to keep their unlimited data to do so: since late 2012, they haven't been able to buy a new subsidized phone without switching over to a plan with a data cap, and the "grandfathered" unlimited data customers who download the most are already subject to "network optimization" when using Verizon's 3G network.

unlimited cosmic power

Hahaha, no seriously, Verizon. Tell me why I should "upgrade."

Starting in October, that will also be true for LTE. Today Verizon posted a short message on its news page that said the company would intentionally slow speeds for "the heaviest users on unlimited plans," but only when those users were connected to a cell site that's already congested.

Starting in October 2014, Verizon Wireless will extend its network optimization policy to the data users who: fall within the top 5 percent of data users on our network, have fulfilled their minimum contractual commitment, and are on unlimited plans using a 4G LTE device.  They may experience slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming, and only when connecting to a cell site when it is experiencing heavy demand.

Now, there's good parts and bad parts of all this. First of all, only the top 5% of data users are subject to these slowdowns, and even then, only when connected to a congested cell tower. On the other hand, those customers who have gone out of their way to keep the cheap and effective unlimited data option are usually the ones who are most likely to use that data. Additionally, Verizon never gives any metric for "peak usage." Verizon might be reasonable about this (you, in the back, stop that laughing) or they could simply decide that all cell towers are always being used at their peak. The reality will probably fall somewhere in the middle.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of data customers will not see any impact from Verizon Wireless’ Network Optimization policy, and will be able to browse the Internet, stream music and videos, upload pictures and send emails as they always have.

It does sound like this will affect a minority of users, but that's a very vocal minority. Since we haven't seen any dramatic reports of Verizon's 3G throttling so far, it's possible that the whole system might operate somewhat efficiently with a minimum impact to customer experience. In any case, those users in urban areas are likely to be the ones who see the effects, if any - unlimited data users are much more likely to be throttled in downtown Manhattan than in Manhattan, Kansas.

I happen to be a Verizon customer with unlimited data, and since I work out of my home in rural Texas, I rely on the extra tethering charge to do my job. If I see any dramatic drops in data coverage, I'll be sure to let you - and Verizon - know.

Source: Verizon Wireless

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Buzzy42

    I'm actually totally fine with this. (speaking as someone who just bought a new phone, full price, to keep my unlimited data plan) I think for all Verizon does wrong, and screws the consumer, this is actually a fair and reasonable method of handling congestion-- if you're already in the top 5% and on a congested cell tower, throttling makes perfect sense.

    Now, if they said "if you're in the top 5% we'll always throttle you" that would be evil. But as long as they actually implement this as stated, it seems entirely fair.

    It's one of the few things Verizon has done "right" with regards to unlimited in the last 3 years..!

    • Mathew Colburn

      The part of this that will piss people off is there are people who have 10gb data plans (I WAS one of them when I was w/ Verizon, I hopped on a double your data deal a couple years ago) and they will never get throttled, yet someone with unlimited data can use 8 gb/month and they will get throttled. That's a problem.

      • Jason

        But the people with 10GB plans are paying more, no?

        Really, if I had to take a wild guess at what the top 5% use, I'd put it beyond 20GB. And even that may be guessing it low.

        • modplan

          VZW said in March that the top 5% use 4.7GBs or more.

        • Mathew Colburn

          I'm sure they do now. Honestly though, when I had my 10gb plan I paid the same as someone that bought a 5gb plan. I think my total bill was around $85 after taxes and such.

    • solbin

      I wholeheartedly disagree. What is stopping them from people that have 10GB family plans saying "Welp.. network congestion.... after the first 4GB you will be throttled to 2g speeds because of reasons"?

      Even though the speed of the network continues to grow and mature. This is nothing more than VZW trying to get people off the unlimited data plans; there is just more money to be made from customers who have a real data cap.

      The top 5% will also continually decrease thereby lowering the 4g data cap as a whole month to month.

      • Buzzy42

        What's stopping them? Probably something in the contract, as well as the knowledge that if they start throttling people using less than their tiered data allotment, they will cause those people to flee, or sue, or both.

        As I said, a lot of this depends on how they really implement it. If they use it in a punitive way then they'll drive customers away.

        If they think I'm leaving unlimited because of the possibility that I might throttled... ha. Now, if they want to make my (data usage) life a living hell with constant throttling, then yes-- that's a different story.

        In an ideal world, where cell towers are infinite and cost nothing, and can be put up at a moment's notice, then yes it's not "fair". But *IF* they *TRULY* only implement this on congested towers, and only during times of heavy congestion. It continues to be in Verizon's long term best interest to try to relieve towers which are "eternally congested" as there will be fewer and fewer unlimited users to throttle to solve congestion and they'll need other methods...

        It will be interesting to see if they re-word this anytime soon to include possibilities of throttling to ALL users.

        I'd much prefer this solution than being told my unlimited is going away. Or that "After 5GB you will be throttled the rest of your billing cycle but it's still 'unlimited' slow data".

        The devil will be in the details. We'll see come November if a bunch of us suddenly get stuck with horrible speeds.

    • krudl3rx

      Except that you don't get into the top 5% by using a congested tower. You get into the top 5% on a tower that is wide open, using your unlimited as your contract allows. Then they go and $%^&* you when you connect to a busy tower, to speeds lower than everyone else is suffering through. This is not right. It is in fact evil.

  • Verizon

    What would be considered a top 5% user? I use 10-15gb a month currently.

    • http://thegumshoe.com/ Michael Crider

      We don't have any way of confirming it, but various places around the internet say anything over 5GB makes you a top 5% user. That doesn't include people who pay for a data cap larger than 5GB, according to these terms.

      • Michael J Carroll

        Are the other 95% grandmas?

      • Asimoalex

        yea i call total BS i knew it was to good to be true tho ...i mean you got people ranting how they use 50+GB online smh i use about 8 myself

      • modplan

        VZW stated that in march, that 4.7GBs or more was the top 5% cuttoff. Did you even read their announcement?


  • BoFiS

    I call on all Unlimited Data users to use AS MUCH DATA AS POSSIBLE before October to bring that top 5% average up higher ;-)

    • Gandalf_Teh_Gray

      I'm on 80.

      • patt

        how much will that be in October ? :D 4.7 ?:P

        • Gandalf_Teh_Gray

          Bout that much just streaming Music everyday.

    • droid4lif3

      Imma go to downtown LA and change my wifi ssid to free and take off the password.

    • taxi333

      I'm on the same boat

  • Asimoalex

    really if the rumor of 5GB being top % i call bs as i work at a mobile store for them and we constantly have people with 6+ gb

  • Jason

    I still have the unlimited plan, but I wouldn't worry about this. The "top" bandwidth users tend to use an absurd amount of bandwidth, to the point where you wonder what the heck are they doing. Throttling them might actually make the network work better for us.

    • modplan

      anyone using 4.7GBs or more is in the top 5% according to VZW, as of March

    • blindexecutioner

      But, it's the top 5%. So, maybe the top 3% use 50GB but the last 2% may only use 3GB.

  • h4rr4r

    This is why I left VZW.

    • AbbyZFresh

      and there will be 5 new subscribers to take your place.

      • So close…


        That's better....

  • Haidar Alamir

    Alternative Title for this post would be "See ya Verizon, Hello T-mobile"

    • Matthew Fry

      I believe Michael has said previously that he'd like to have T-Mobile if they'd just bring a reliable signal.

  • blindexecutioner

    Does Verizon allow phone upgrades while keeping your unlimited data? I would imagine that is how they will get most users to give it up eventually. At some point you will probably have to use a current plan to upgrade or activate a new phone.

    However, Verizon does stuff like this all the time and they keep gaining subscribers. Why would they stop? Why would they hurt their bottom line when these changes don't hurt them at all? Companies don't do stuff just to be nice they do it to make money.

    • cesium

      Yes you can "upgrade" your phone at will, you just can't get it subsidized. I.e., buy off-contract.

      • Chelsea

        You can buy your phone from Best Buy at the 2 year contract price. Then you throw away your new sim card that comes with the phone and pop the old sim card in. (The new sim card will cause you to lose unlimited data). I got an Iphone 5s 32gb for $200 2 months ago and still have unlimited data.

        • Chelsea

          You have to get the phone shipped to your house, you can't pick up in store fyi

          • StinkWink69

            Damn wish I knew that before I got my m8 on eBay for 475. I know you can swap phone with another line and keep your unlimited but I only have one line. Or wait that wouldn't have worked for me either as my old phone had a bigger SIM card. Still good to know, I suppose I could get a new one and sell it. Does that extend your contract then?

    • nxtiak

      Officially no, but it's possible and Verizon store employees can do it.
      My friend just got 3 LG G3 and renewed his contract and his unlimited data plan, and his friend who works at Verizon store let him keep his unlimited.

    • StinkWink69

      There is a trick you can do it you have 2 lines one on contract and one unlimited, otherwise I guess you can blow the Verizon clerk.

  • nvllsvm

    4.7gb? Verizon, fuck yourself.

  • Rahul Nebhnani

    unlimited broadband is available
    so why not unlimited data plans

    • Mkvarner

      It costs more.

  • asianrage

    Why not just add more cell site? Where I work now, there's only one closest to me. I barely break the 2Mbps barrier. It's better at home, where there are two of them, but the 50Mbps speed hasn't existed in the last 2 years.

  • duke69111

    The article picture is very fitting.

  • Robb Nunya

    If you're using your phone's connection as your ISP, you're a dick.

    If you're watching Hi-Def streaming video on your 4" screen, you're a dick.

    If you're downloading tons of torrents all the time on your phone, you're a dick.

    If you're a dick, I have no problem with you being data-throttled. You're the reason asshat companies like Verizon started implementing data caps in the first place.

    • Thomas Mellen

      Until Netflix, Hulu, and other services allow you to select a "lower bandwidth" option, then yes, I am streaming HD to my phone to keep the kids entertained at the doctor's office. I rather think I am NOT being a dick at this point, so... go fuck yourself.

      • StinkWink69

        Exactly I watched espns app for like an hour and it was 2gb, imagine if I watched the whole open.

      • Robb Nunya

        Give your kids a book and shove your phone up your ass, Dick. They probably need less stimulation anyway, and your phone isn't a baby sitter.

        Or at the very least, don't whine if and when you get throttled, you'll deserve it.

    • StinkWink69

      No the reason is greed pure and simple. Is there a limit to where one could be using too much? Sure. Its north of 100GB.

      • Robb Nunya

        100Gb? Dear God. If you're using 100Gb of data on your phone, I hope they send over someone to nut-cut you.

        Say it with me: If you're using 100Gb of data on your phone, you're a dick.

        • StinkWink69

          That's basically what I said. There is a point where you are a dick. A single HDmovie can be 5gb, that's one movie per month and you get throttled. Most apps don't allow you to choose quality they give you the best your signal will accommodate. I use anywhere between less than a single GB to near 30 some months. I average probably 5. I do not think I should be throttled because I'm at 20gb this month when I used 2 last month. If they couldn't handle unlimited data they should not have sold it to me, now I say it's too Damn bad use some of those billions in profit and upgrage the congested areas.

    • cesium

      "If you're watching Hi-Def streaming video on your 4" screen, you're a dick."

      I often watch HBO Go on my 4.7" HTC One's 1080p screen, thank you very much. Dick.

    • Brian

      Actually there is research that prove congestion isn't from data hogs

    • ONmedz

      Go fuck yourself.

      • Robb Nunya

        GO suck your mom's cock. Douches like you screw it up for the rest of us. Quit being a cheap bitch and pay for an ISP. I know it's very important that you get your dog porn streamed in HD, but it's killing the rest of us.

        • StinkWink69

          Verizon is killing you not anyone else. They are one of the most profitable companies on the planet, network congestion is a matter of maximizing profits at the expence of providing the level of service we all were promised when we signed up. No matter how much data you use in a month you can still only use one connection at a time at a maximum speed at a time, therefore "data hogs" do not cause congestion, too many connections at one time on antennas that do not have the bandwidth to accommodate them is what causes congestion, and that is 100% caused by greed on the part of Verizon Wireless.

    • Thomas

      So why did Verizon sell me something and take my money for 10 years but when I start using the product they say WAIT, you can't use what you paid for?

      • Robb Nunya

        10 years ago, your phone couldn't suck up Gbs of data, causing network congestion. You weren't a burden on the network back then.

        • Thomas

          Both the annuity companies would love you. Medicine improved and we didn't plan on paying that life annuity that long, sorry we have to cut you off.

    • JG

      @robbnunya:disqus Why am I a dick if I use my phone as my ISP? How would it differ if I got a Verizon 4G Broadband Router and used it instead? It's still connecting to the same towers pulling in the same LTE my phone would.

      Also, what if my phone has a 5" screen? Do I retain my dick-ness if I stream HD to it? And why would this be a reason Verizon needed to add data caps? They are the ones who told us to stream HD to our phones in the first place! A year or two ago they had a commercial with two little kids watching Netflix while camping with the voice over telling us we were now free to stream wherever we wanted. And they've only been improving their network since - adding the AWS spectrum, introducing XLTE, etc - all so the network could handle more connections...

      • Robb Nunya

        1> The router's intended use is to connect a PC to it full time. Your phone's intended use is to talk on it. The ability to tether to it is secondary. A PC uses a TON more data than a phone. Plus, that Broadband router won't have unlimited data, so people living in that loophole won't be able to abuse the system.

        2> I'm sure Verizon didn't anticipate that people would over-use the network like they've been doing. I'm not a Verizon apologist by any means, but I completely understand their side of it. Users abusing the network make it bad for the rest. You can enjoy a movie in standard res just fine, at a cost of about 1/4 the bandwidth. Instead, you feel the need to run HD. You CAN stream wherever you want. But HD on a 5" screen? Really?

        And adding XLTE, AWS, etc... costs money. A lot of it. You DO realize that Verizon is in the business of turning a profit, don't you?

        • Thomas

          The problem with your logic is that I can go to Verizon and buy a 100GB plan today. So they don't care how much data I use or they would not sell that plan, they care because the misleading tactics they used are not now profitable. If Verizon had been honest then none of this would be an issue.

          • JG

            Two points to add to your statement.
            1.) Not only can you buy a 100GB plan, but they won't cut you off once you hit 100GBs. They'll let you keep using (presumably) as much data as you want - at a rate of $15/GB.

            2.) I was reading about this on another site as well and they pegged the throttling to start around 5GBs of LTE usage. If only the heaviest data users - 5% of the millions in Verizon's customer base get anywhere close to 5GBs, why do they bother offering 6, 8 and 10GBs plans? Especially when these 5% abuse the network so bad they have to be throttled and otherwise punished for degrading the experience for everyone else?

        • JG

          1.) Except Verizon itself claims their LTE network is just as good as any wired broadband connection - at least that's what they told the state of New York. Verizon is actively pushing their 4G routers instead of having to run wires to every house after being awarded the title of the state's official broadband supplier. And there is no difference between me accessing their network with one of their routers or me using my smartphone (either tethering it to another device, or just eating the Gees straight on it). I would still cause the same congestion and degeneration to their network pulling in 75GB using their router as I would if I used my phone as my ISP to pull in 75GBs. And in a sense it does have unlimited data - I can buy a plan for up to 100GBs/month, but they don't cut me off there - I can keep using it for $15/GB. If we have to have caps because people using too much bandwidth hurts the network - why do they let you go over, especially when the cap is so large?

          2.) How exactly are users abusing the network? When you go out to a Chinese Buffet for lunch, you don't pay for all you can eat (aka unlimited) and get told you can only bring back two plates. I could see if we were caught stuffing Giga-bites(*) of General Tso's into our purses so we didn't have to pay for dinner later, but that's not the case here... (* giga-bites - get it ... lol). Verizon sold us unlimited data packages and I, at least, was specifically told I could use it to surf or stream or whatever as much as I wanted. I was never told I could only stream one Netflix movie per month at that's it (standard def uses ~1GB/hr; HD 3)...

          Verizon et al claim caps are required because, like Chinese food in my example, the spectrum is finite and there is only so much to go around. Which is true, in a sense. Like a Chinese buffet, only so many people can successfully be at the buffet getting food at any one point. Likewise, only so many devices can send/receive data at any one point without it becoming a jumbled mess. But that's where the similarities end. When the buffet runs out of Egg Rolls that's it. There are no more. That's never the case with radio spectrum. As soon as the data packet is no longer flying through the airwaves, the tray is refilled and ready for more people to start grabbing data. Like a garden hose, you can only send so much water through at any point, but you can keep pumping water through non-stop and eventually drain an entire ocean...

          And just because I'm downloading an HD version of a movie to my phone doesn't mean I'm going to watch it on my phone. I could cast it to a 60+ inch 4k TV set with surround sound and the whole deal. That would make a little more sense than trying to watch even on a 7" tablet.

          And I'd also argue that the age when the primary reason to have a mobile phone was to make calls is long gone. Personally I couldn't tell you the last time I actually called someone on my phone was - even though I am probably using it (to talk to people [SMS, hangouts, G+ posts, tweets, etc] among other uses) probably way more than I should on a daily basis. If phones were still primarily for talking - I doubt we would be trying to cram 2.4Ghz oct-core processors, 3GBs of ram, 2k displays, and especially not having discussions on the merit of a 5.9" screen. Nor would we be rushing to upgrade networks to LTE and trying to come up with even faster 5G. Traditional GSM and CDMA tech is more than enough to transmit voice, even in "HD" and we'd still be rocking basic Motorola Razr flip phones with 2x3 inch 8bit screens...

    • Lisk

      If you eat a lot at an all-you-can eat buffet... you're a dick. If you top off at the gas station... you're a dick. If you buy items at 20% off and use the entire discount... you're a dick. If you're complaining because you weren't loyal enough to stick with a cell company long enough to get grandfathered into an unlimited plan... you're a dick. If you think like Robb Nunya... you're a dick. And if you are Robb Nunya... yes, you're just a dick. The fact is the top 5% use way, way, way more than 5gb/month; it wont even affect anyone who use less than 20gb/month. Its a scare tactic to get more money. "Oh no, my speeds will drop... better switch to premium" say the herd Verizon is trying to work over. More than 75% of unlimited users use more than 5gb/month; 45% use less than 20gb/month. The only difference is they aren't paying out the nose for it. This most likely will slow down the 30+ or 40+ and definitely the 50+ GB users who actually make up some of those 5%. So to those of you who are unlimited, keep indulging on the ignorance and stupidity of those like Robb Nunya, and use your phone like it was intended; the way you want to use it.

      • Robb Nunya

        Sounds like you have plenty of ways that you're a dick. Poor little dick! I'll bet you make your mom bring her extra large purse so that you can wrap food at the buffet in paper napkins and smuggle it out, don't you, dick?

        Actually, you're more of an entitled little bitch than a dick. A dick implies you have balls as well. Quit being a bitch, bitch.

  • Avi

    Isn't verizon not allowed to throttle 4g customers because of the whole FCC C-block deal? Really not happy about this as i am a unlimited customer in new york and use around 10 GB a month! Why is verizon so irritating!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Shawn De Cesari

      Yes they're allowed to throttle all day long.

      • StinkWink69

        Isn't reducing speed a limit? You know like we have speed limits on roads? Kinda not "unlimited" then is it?

    • Dean Politis

      Because they can be!

    • JG

      My first thought was what about the FCC deal as well... I wouldn't be surprised if the deal extended until 30 September 2014. That would explain why Verizon is waiting until 1 October to start this...

  • My1

    you dont have to get a subsidized phone, go into your next electronics store, buy the phone, insert sim and you dont need to change anything...

  • frhow

    I wonder what Verizon considers congested? Lol I'm sure 4.7 is the limit you get before they consider towers around as congested...

  • Brian

    I love how these wireless companies just make up shit like "network congestion due to people using large amounts of data" as fact and people on here actually believe these scums after studies and research have actually proven otherwise. Data caps DO NOT reduce "congestion" its a myth these companies spew to make you think what their doing is okay. Data caps have been in effect for almost 3-4 years now and yet customers don't see any difference in speed. On top of that the top 5% of data users are not the problem of congestion. Verizon once again are turning their customers against each other to distract from their Nicole and dining scheme.

    • Roh_Mish

      People use less data due to cap. And as customers increase, they have less pressure in them to increase the lines.

    • MattE303

      "Nicole and dining" scheme??? WTF???

    • Wyatt Neal

      The real fact is that VZW isn't investing in their core switching / routing infrastructure as much as they should be. They did a massive build out of antenna's and coverage, but on the backhaul, they're still running non gig pipes serving all the data. So sure, you can have SUPER FAST OMG MY PACKETS ARE ON FIRE! traffic to the tower, but that's just one end of the hope, you've got the rest of the marathon to run.

  • https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5oCUR11M24mekZubnc4ZUFCUU0/edit?usp=sharing Metsie

    Imagine if users has their own website and made an announcement on it that they are no longer going to pay for Tethering and pretty much CHANGE THE TERMS of a Contract they signed as their own discretion...

    Wonder what Verizon would do or say about that?
    I bet those who had Unlimited Data grandfathered in have nothing in their contract regarding throttling so why don't those users file a lawsuit charging breach of contract and see what happens?

    • Wyatt Neal

      Because part of the contract is that you automatically agree to VZW arbitration which means they get to pick someone who decides (not necessarily a judge) if their going to have to pay out or not.

    • StinkWink69

      According to Verizon this applies only to unlimited users who are out of contract and month to month. If you are an unlimited user who has used the 2 line phone swap trick to keep your unlimited and are still on contract they say you won't be throttled.

  • SMDH

    True story. I work at Verizon. I had a guy call me today ranting for 20 straight minutes because this is the 5th (5th!) Motorola Maxx that he has burned up. And when I say burned up, I mean he is averaging 90+gigs a month. He literally burns through so much data that his phone starts to bubble and melt. And he just keeps going until he gets a replacement. He calls today because his phone quit reading his SD card, which mind you, has been in each of these 5 phones he's caused to reach critical meltdown. And now he's pissed because we keep telling him he can't get a phone subsidized without losing his unlimited. I tell him, go hit swappa, ebay, buy a bunch of them cheap. Not good enough for him. He wants one free. I understand though, I've never even had unlimited, and I burn through 18-20 gigs a month via wifi at work and home. So I tell him dude, just take the back cover off while you're streaming and place a small fan behind it, its gotta be kept cool. You're gonna start a fire one day. Not good enough. LOL we even directed him to Motorola, and they told him he uses the phone too damn much. Now if the MANUFACTURER tells you to lay off, WTF do you expect us to do? That being said, I still think 5 gigs is too low to start throttlin folks, but hey, whats the alternative, go to T-Mobile like I hear people saying all day and get throttled there too?

    • JoshGlazebrook

      Sounds like a nut job. You should direct him here if he really wants a new phone at subsidized pricing and wants to keep his unlimited plan: slickdeals.net/f/6964624-upgrade-and-keep-your-unlimited-data-with-verizon?v=1

  • Zyre

    Can't people just protest by not paying there bills?

  • theunknown

    I know this is not a fair comparison but
    In India, on Vodafone I have 2 GB over 3G for 450 Rs which amounts to 7.50 USD

    • kirk

      IndiaVodaphone obviously hasn't mastered the art of sticking money in the pockets of American politicians as well as Verizon/Att/Comcast have mastered it.


  • jack

    Verizon can suck a fat dick ... Fuck verizons bullshit tactics to push everyone away from unlimited ..... I will keep mine forever and keep craigslisting phones :)

  • someone’s bro

    they don't slow it down they cut it off the whole signal and everything... they can't do that if you needed to make a phone call or call for help you can't.... you have zero signal they are about to have a lawsuit on there hands for this...