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Verizon To Start Throttling All Smartphone Videos To 480p or 720p (arstechnica.com) 188

Verizon Wireless will start throttling video streams to resolutions as low as 480p on smartphones this week. Most data plans will get 720p video on smartphones, but customers won't have any option to completely un-throttle video. From a report: 1080p will be the highest resolution provided on tablets, effectively ruling out 4K video on Verizon's mobile network. Anything identified as a video will not be given more than 10Mbps worth of bandwidth. This limit will affect mobile hotspot usage as well. Verizon started selling unlimited smartphone data plans in February of this year, and the carrier said at the time that it would deliver video to customers at the same resolution used by streaming video companies. "We deliver whatever the content provider gives us. We don't manipulate the data," Verizon told Ars in February. That changes beginning on Wednesday, both for existing customers and new ones. The changes were detailed today in an announcement of new unlimited data plans. Starting August 23, Verizon's cheapest single-line unlimited smartphone data plan will cost $75 a month, which is $5 less than it cost before. The plan will include only "DVD-quality streaming" of 480p on phones and 720p on tablets.The new Verizon cell phone plans can be compare side by side here, along with all of Verizon's existing plans.
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Verizon To Start Throttling All Smartphone Videos To 480p or 720p

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  • by courteaudotbiz ( 1191083 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:06AM (#55062717) Homepage
    Isn't this 100% against Net Neutrality??
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

      Surprisingly, not really. Put this way: they're throttling "video", not "Netflix".

      Now if they pushed their own (or a paying partner's) video service and throttled everyone else's, then you'd see a violation of net neutrality.

      • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:26AM (#55062875)

        Net Neutrality is not only about throttling one particular company. It's about applying any filter that causes some data to be treated differently to another.

        If I suddenly can't download certain files as they're hosted on the server, because the ISP deemed them filter worthy, that certainly is a violation of net neutrality.

        • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:38AM (#55062959) Journal

          Blackholing http-based DDoS packets would violate your definition of net neutrality, so maybe you shouldn't try to be so absolutist? Sometimes throttling *types* of packets is a good thing (now in TFA's case, that's up for debate.)

          Also, NN is based on not discriminating based on source, as opposed to based on type. For instance, Coho.net (a local Pacific NW Fixed-wireless ISP) specifically filters out and blocks as much BitTorrent traffic as it can detect, and says as much in their policy. They've done this for years now, through various FCC Net Neutrality pronouncements and rulesets, and have yet to see any issues with the FCC over it.

          • "This ISP does it, therefore it doesn't violate net neutrality" is a strange argument to make. The bottom line is that it prevents you downloading certain types of data. That's EXACTLY what net neutrality is meant to prevent.

            To be network neutral, an ISP is meant to act as a dumb pipe. It's then up to me to discard packets that I'm not interested in.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Holi ( 250190 )
              So Net Neutrality does not allow for QoS?
              • Correct - and that's actually one of the exact arguments the ISPs used against it - it would degrade the quality of some services due to not being able to prioritize them.

                • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @11:06AM (#55063201) Journal
                  That definition of Network Neutrality is the one that's pushed by ISPs, not by NN advocates. Typical NN definitions allow differentiating based on traffic type, but with some tight constraints (e.g. you can put things into latency-sensitive, jitter-sensitive, and bandwidth-sensitive buckets, but you can't treat one latency-sensitive protocol differently from another). QoS explicitly is allowed by all except for the straw-man NN definition used by ISPs.
              • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
                QoS is only effective when there is not enough bandwidth. When pushed against the limitations of technology, QoS is expensive. Would you rather have 120Gb/s with QoS or 600Gb/s with no QoS. These are the choices that must be made.
              • by arth1 ( 260657 )

                So Net Neutrality does not allow for QoS?

                It allows for using QoS information, but not for changing it. If either of the endpoints (or devices under their control) marks the packets with a QoS, they are free to act on that.

        • by Aqualung812 ( 959532 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @11:03AM (#55063175)

          Net Neutrality is not only about throttling one particular company. It's about applying any filter that causes some data to be treated differently to another.

          The "Net" refers to networks. As in, I'm neutral as to how I treat packets from network A and network B.

          You may want ISPs to be neutral about how they treat packets on criteria other than their source and destination, but that isn't Net Neutrality. That's something else entirely.

          ISPs can throttle and apply QoS polices to traffic and maintain network neutrality as long as the selection criteria isn't based on src or dst.

          • No - "net" refers to networks. As in the network is neutral as to how it treats all packets.

            • Try again. This is the document that coined the phrase "Network Neutrality".

              http://www.jthtl.org/content/a... [jthtl.org]

              What you're talking about is "Application Neutrality", which is also discussed.

              There may be good reasons to have Application Neutrality, but you don't get to re-define Network Neutrality because you have your own misunderstanding of the phrase.

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:53AM (#55063075) Homepage Journal

      No, this is network management. Network Neutrality is normally, and usefully, described as discrimination against the source (or destination) of data.

      What Verizon is doing is not discriminating against source, it's managing data under a particular protocol. The battle for all protocols to be treated equally was lost a long time ago when most ISPs stopped allowing customers to receive data on port 25.

      • It is also a consumer fraud, at lease on current users, since they are providing less service than what their advertising would be understood by customers as claiming.

        The FCC is not good at regulating this. This kind if thing is exactly what the FTC (the federal government's primary consumer protection watchdog) handles, and often handles very well.

        IMHO this kind of regulation (as well as the anti-competitive behavior of vertically integrating ISPs into content provision conglomerates and then treating the

        • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
          I wonder if this allows you to break contracts, although I'm not sure how that would apply since I'm not under contract anymore, but I have to pay off the phone "loan" to break out of the Verizon universe.
    • well not really. it's not a net neutrality thing, however if they did it like they describe then it's 100% against privacy and it's 100% against using https.

      youtube defaults to https. they can't intercept that and re-encode it.so what tools do they have in their possession to do it?

      however, they can just throttle it to say 1mbps or whatever they think that 1mbps is, which seems actually much more likely than anything else - that they throttle all long tcp connections. MAKING THEIR ENTIRE HIGH SPEED SALES PI

      • by unrtst ( 777550 )

        THIS. Thank you.

        If you're streaming video over https and Verizon throttles it, then that throttling decision was made based on very limited data:
        * source (youtube/etc)
        * destination (you)
        * port (443 / HTTPS, which does not signify "video")
        * connection age (how long the connection has been established... but this would actually be easy to work around by just re-establishing the connection every few minutes)
        * usage (how much has been transferred in how much time)

        I take issue with anyone saying they throttle vi

    • Will thi saplly to Verizon Channel on USTREAM?

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:12AM (#55062765)
    So long as the wireless vendors continue to stick it to their customers with artificial constrainst and service downgrades, wireless is not going to be the replacement for fixed-line Internet access that many have been predicting.
    • So long as the wireless vendors continue to stick it to their customers with artificial constrainst and service downgrades, wireless is not going to be the replacement for fixed-line Internet access that many have been predicting.

      This is also a really bad marketing move right before the Game of Thrones finale. My guess is Verizon has been losing too much money with every Game of Thrones episode.

    • And... wait'll the cocksuckers do this with fixed-line internet access.

      I give 'em two weeks.

  • We deliver whatever the content provider gives us.

    Just not fast enough to be of any use.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Can you tell the difference between 480p and 720p on your tiny 4.5" or 5.0" screen smartphone? I doubt it.

      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

        True. But I can tell when I'm using my phone as a hotspot for my laptop, and I can tell when I'm outputting directly from my phone using a slimport adapter. So the issue is, unlike T-Mobile's plan, you can't opt out.... AND they were selling their unlimited service stating that the video wouldn't be altered, so anybody who got a contract up until now should be able to freely cancel their plans.

      • Can you tell the difference between 480p and 720p on your tiny 4.5" or 5.0" screen smartphone? I doubt it.

        When it's docked to an external display through HDMI out or Chromecast, I can tell the difference, especially for text-heavy videos such as screencasts from a desktop or laptop PC. Each&Everything's tech support scam investigations [youtube.com], for instance, are just barely readable at 480p and more comfortable at 720p.

      • Many modern smartphones have HDMI out and can be plugged into a projector or HD TV, where you could tell the difference. Of course, in most such situations, you'd probably prefer to use WiFi, but if mobile data is your only option then this could be annoying.
      • On my 1440p 5" smartphone screen... 480p looks "chunky", as that upscales to 3px by 3px blocks. The difference between 720p and 1080p is far less obvious, however, so I won't complain about 720p if the content was recorded in 720p or better.
      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Can you tell the difference between 480p and 720p on your tiny 4.5" or 5.0" screen smartphone? I doubt it.

        My tiny 5.0" smartphone is 1920x1080, and when I stream a 1080p stream, that's what I expect to get. I also expect to get data like embedded sideband captioning.

  • Thanks, Trumpers (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Trump supporters are dumber than cattle

  • Particularly on a mobile device, even with "retina" display quality, I doubt there are many people who will notice any difference... except of course, geeks and those of us who concentrate really closely.

    It's like the difference in mp3 between 192kbps and 128kbps encoding - most people won't be able to tell the difference, except musicians and audiophiles.

    I'm sure they conducted a small scale research to see if anyone noticed.
    In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if they already performed a/b testing against exi

    • Up until a few months ago I was using Netflix at the lowest setting on my 10 inch table (1080p resolution) due to bandwidth concerns and to tell you the truth I really didn't notice much of a difference once I got unlimited internet and started using high quality streams. I mean, there was a difference, but for stuff I watch on my tablet I really couldn't care. I had a separate profile for the TV where I used high quality for the small number of movies I really wanted to experience in HD.

      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

        You and the post you were responding too are absolutely correct about resolutions and streaming quality on smaller devices, it's true, but if you are using your phone as a hotspot for your laptop (mine has a UHD display), or you're using slimport (also up to 4K) to display on a full size TV, the issue is you can't opt out or change a profile (unlike T-Mobile's version of this, which is the only thing that makes it acceptable). I'm not saying I personally actually use my phone that way (at this point, I don

      • by Orphis ( 1356561 )

        Don't forget that Netflix is not re-encoding their content on the fly, it's prepared with fine tuned encoder and maybe 2 or more passes to get good quality for all the devices and formats.

        On the other hand, what do you think your ISP will do if it starts re-encoding videos on the fly? It will output crap quality and that is very noticeable! It's not comparable at all.

        • They aren't re-encoding video on the fly. They are limiting the bandwidth of the connection to make the video content provider send a lower quality stream.

          • And when a content provider doesn't switch to a lower-bitrate stream, what then? Endless buffering? It's not always automatic. Also, will downloads be restricted to streaming rates? It would be quite annoying, to say the least, to be made to wait for hours when you could have downloaded any other file of comparable size in a fraction of the time—provided it wasn't video.

            At the very least it would be fraudulent to advertise a higher Internet access speed than the throttled video rate. Per the ITU's def

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Even 384kbps mp3 sounds like crap. May not be able to tell the difference between 192 and 128, but I can easily tell the difference between lossless and mp3. Mp3 compression can cause my physical pain in my ears. I have no idea how this does not bother other people. I will get what feels and sounds and feels like swimmer's ear after a few minutes then my ears will start ringing and give me physical pain like an ear infection after a few more minutes. Ogg does not do this and of course not flac.

      Most DJs I
  • by Nkwe ( 604125 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:29AM (#55062901)
    As long as Verizon or its "select partners" don't get a pass and are not allowed to stream video faster, it's not a net neutrality thing. Prioritization by protocol (as long as the rules are the same for all endpoints) does not violate the concept of net neutrality. There is a physical limit on the bandwidth available in any radio based system and it is the responsibility of a network provider to manage that bandwidth properly for the health of the network itself. Why is it unreasonable to put limits protocols that are known to use lots of bandwidth (eg video) as long as those limits are applied universally? And from the summary, they are talking about 10Mbs video streaming bandwidth limit - that is sufficient for a high definition stream on a 70 inch television (with multi-channel surround sound), certainly it is enough for the screen size of a phone or tablet being listened to in stereo at best.
    • I totally agree that as long as it's in the interest of network health, sure, do what you have it.

      However, living overseas currently, my perspective would be more along the lines of, this is unacceptable. Invest in your infrastructure and support your additional users and their usage.

    • by Thruen ( 753567 )
      Why would you sell an unlimited data plan if you can't provide it? Why would you tell customers when you launch an unlimited data plan you won't be throttling video only to turn around and start throttling it a few months later? Why are you asking such a stupid question, when it's incredibly obvious why this is a bad thing? It doesn't have to be a net neutrality issue to be bad, that is not the only thing you should look at from you internet provider to determine if you're being treated fairly. As for your
      • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

        As for your comment about 10mbps being sufficient for a 70 inch television, that really just shows you don't understand the difference between resolution and sheer size.

        I watch Netflix streams on my 70" TV all the time. It is not a 4K TV but it is a HD TV, I am not watching at 480p, I am watching at 1080. Network bandwidth is typically under 10 Mbps when I am doing this. Is the quality as good as when playing directly off of a Blu Ray player? No. Is it good enough? Yes. Would it be good enough if I was watching it on a 10" screen at the same resolution? Absolutely.

        • You don't know what you're talking about. bitrate is different than resolution.

          Netflix 1080HD averages out to 5mbps on average bitrate. a 1080p bluray is 40mbps. can't remember the bandwidth for the new UHD standard, but it's more than 40.

          you can have 1080p at 1mbps bitrate and it will look like crap. idiots who rip blurays and compress them at full compression do this all the time.

          the new 4K streaming standard is 20mbps bandwidth

          Verizon limiting video to 10mbps is already twice that of what Netflix gives y

        • by Thruen ( 753567 )

          Is it good enough? Yes.

          Your personal standards being low enough to not mind this doesn't make it any less of a bad thing. Some people care more about these things than you do and they pay a premium for quality. When you sign up for an unlimited plan, you expect it to be unlimited so you can enjoy these higher quality streams, especially when the provider explicitly stated they wouldn't be throttling when you signed up for it. It's a basic bait and switch, customers were sold one thing and now they're being given another, there's

    • by pr0t0 ( 216378 )

      It's a bad thing because they call the service "Unlimited", and by that they mean limited. It's also bad because mobile broadband is recently being considered as a substitute for fixed-line internet service to rural and remote areas. It's a bad thing because it's stupidly expensive.

      But maybe you're right, as long as they downgrade their own video options as well it's not a net neutrality issue. It's unlikely that net neutrality is going to survive though, and it's even more unlikely that VZW will downgrade

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Exactly,,,, they may say it's "unlimited" because they don't directly try to limit the *amount* of data you can download, but in fact by imposing an limitation on the *speed* of the download, they are effectively creating a data limit as well anyways, as there is only so much data that you can download in a given time at a given speed. Of course, on any given physical infrastructure that latter point would be true even if the company didn't impose any limitations on bandwidth at all, but when it is the co
    • Well if they can't handle it they need to upgrade their networks. If they can't, they need to plan a more sustainable long-term budget. If this is how they handle increased demand from consumers then they will eventually hit a wall.

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        Well if they can't handle it they need to upgrade their networks. If they can't, they need to plan a more sustainable long-term budget. If this is how they handle increased demand from consumers then they will eventually hit a wall.

        I'd agree with you completely if we were talking about fiber or a wired network, but there is a finite amount of spectrum to go around, and an ever-increasing number of people using it. Such networks inevitably do hit a wall, and the only solution is more spectrum, which means higher frequencies -- both because the lower bands are already allocated, and because the higher bands physically enable more bandwidth. On the up side this means smaller antennas (which is why phones no longer appear to have them), a

  • by toonces33 ( 841696 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:35AM (#55062925)
    Any time you have a resource where usage is unchecked, people will consume more and more of it until it is unusable for everyone. If there were no limits, then what's the downside to people streaming more and more? Nothing. Expanding bandwidth costs real money, and in some cases there are spectrum limits which prevent them from expanding much more. Ever used the free WiFi in an airport - the dopey kids sitting across from you are streaming some mind-rot and killing the bandwidth for everyone else. So the kids get the lolz, and you can barely get your work emails.
    • I agree with you, up until the point that I pay out the ass for unlimited data. If their network can't handle it, they should stop advertising and selling it.
    • Ever used the free WiFi in an airport - the dopey kids sitting across from you are streaming some mind-rot and killing the bandwidth for everyone else. So the kids get the lolz, and you can barely get your work emails.

      That's just poor bandwidth management. The operator shouldn't be throttling the video just because it's video, much less because they consider it "less important". Instead, available bandwidth should be divided equally between all active users. Given a properly-configured traffic-shaping router, your work e-mails should get through without any issue and without any noticeable impact to the other users of the network. If the system is simply oversubscribed then that is indeed a problem, but in that case it s

  • by tatman ( 1076111 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @10:40AM (#55062975) Homepage

    I dont use Verizon. Every time I try to send a picture to someone I know using Verizon, I get a message that the image is too big to send because Verizon has image size caps. Now they are going to cap video resolution. This is not progress. This is a step backwards.

    I suppose they (Verizon) will make the argument about screen size and perceived quality. But it should not be their decision but left at the hands of consumer.

    • But it should not be their decision but left at the hands of consumer.

      I think this is the key of the discussion. It's not about throttling or QoS - it's about who controls it, and how.

      It would be far better if Verizon offer a "QoS panel" where they even would left some throttling on by default, but leave in the user's hands the option to control it or even turn it off. The company would transform a big problem in an useful feature, especially in limited data plans, where the customers would actually want to control their own data usage.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Other carriers don't have image size limits?

  • While codecs and containers are well known, most video providers nowadays are encrypted; if the algorithm / keys used allow for content fingerprinting at scale then the encryption itself is badly broken (one would hope they won't dare go and install their own wildcard certs on all customer phones).

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @11:10AM (#55063229)
    * Except for the limits.
  • I might see a use case for phones with maybe a 7" screen, but the typical 5-6" screens in most phones (tablets are a dying thing) 720p is just about as razor-sharp as you'd ideally want and for 4" phones 480p video is again about as crisp.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sorry but no. I can see the difference between 720p 1080p and the native 1440p that my phone supports, and can most definitely see how shitty 480p is. If you can't it might be time to get your eyes checked.

      The other problem with most streaming services is how compressed they are. id wager that a 1440p stream is probably in reality similar quality to a 1080p OTA, cable or satellite channel. Sure you might get the rated resolution for a static still frame, once you add motion and artifacting to it, your visua

  • I'm not the hugest fan of Verizon for some of the shady things they are doing, but the cries that this runs afoul of Net Neutrality are a bit alarmist. Unless I'm reading the article incorrectly, they are throttling bandwidth such that 720p will come through ok, but 1080p will not. I'm reading that as a global throttling, not just for video. Am I wrong?

  • Ars is not giving us a straight story - they say on one hand that video will be throttled to 10Mbps, and on the other that it will be throttled to 480p on phones and 720p on tablets.

    For starters, they won't know what resolution the video is if it's coming across HTTPS (which more and more is). And if they're just going on bandwidth and capping it at 10Mbps, that's not going to have a huge effect, because you can get a solid 1080 HD stream in 5Mbps using H.264, and you can get a pretty decent 4K stream under

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If VZ doesn't throttle VPNs, then just get a VPN account which averages a few bucks a month if you buy a year of access up front, then stream all your video though the VPN, they'll have no way to identify the video traffic to throttle it.

  • Now that you've decided that 10Mbps is going to be considered a "high-speed" internet connection, the ISPs are able to dumb down all the available content to fall within that definition. 4K video over the 'net? Who cares. Doesn't work worth spit on our [ahem] "new" high-speed connections so you won't want it. Who cares if the US falls even further behind the rest of the world in technology. As long as our ISPs don't have to upgrade their equipment, more profits can go to the shareholders. Investment in infr

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