Hello, Data Hog! Verizon's About To Slow You Down

A big perk of Verizon over AT&T - besides phone calls - is unlimited smartphone data versus AT&T's 2GB cap. But! If you're pulling too much data, Verizon will slow your roll. This is how Verizon's getting ready for the iPhone flood.

Specifically, a PDF on Verizon's site spotted by Boy Genius says

If you use an extraordinary amount of data and fall within the top 5% of Verizon Wireless data users we may reduce your data throughput speeds periodically for the remainder of your then current and immediately following billing cycle to ensure high quality network performance for other users at locations and times of peak demand.

They won't stop you from pulling down 10GB a month over your smartphone. But they will make a bit harder to pull that much data down in the first place. The question is, how much data puts you in the top 5 per cent? One study from July would put people using more than 2GB of data on Verizon's network in the top 5 per cent of data users. (Which is, notably, about the same as AT&T's data cap.)

The other thing Verizon's doing to manage data is "implementing optimization and transcoding technologies in our network to transmit data files in a more efficient manner", doing things like "include caching less data, using less capacity, and sizing the video more appropriately for the device". Sounds fine! Except:

While we invest much effort to avoid changing text, image, and video files in the compression process and while any change to the file is likely to be indiscernible, the optimization process may minimally impact the appearance of the file as displayed on your device.For a further, more detailed explanation of these techniques, please visit www.verizonwireless.com/vzwoptimization.

Right now, that link's dead, so we'll have to wait and see what this is going to mean in detail.

It's an interesting set of trade-offs: With Verizon, you get unlimited data and better phone calls, but you might get slowed down and there's a chance some files will look weird. With AT&T, if you can get a connection, it's going to be faster, but you're going to pay for every byte. Sprint's unlimited plans are looking pretty good right about now! (Cue question: When are they getting the iPhone???) [VZW via BGR]