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Verizon begins choking highest data users

Big Red's "Network Optimization" project will shave data speeds for its most resource-hungry users, Verizon says.

This month, Verizon will be making good on its threat to choke data speeds for the most active 5 percent of its 3G data customers.

If you use 2GB of data or more each month and have a 3G unlimited plan, there's a good chance this slow-down applies to you.

It isn't "throttling," of course, Verizon wants you to know. Throttling is a long-term downgrading of your data speeds, Big Red said in a statement online, whereas its "Network Optimization" is more like a series of speed bumps to slow you down when the network needs a traffic cop.

Unlike throttling, Verizon says it will return you to your usual speeds once the congestion has ceased, which could take anywhere from seconds to hours, and there's no way of knowing exactly when the cell nearest you is overburdened.

Verizon's online FAQ is rather vague, and very polite. They're not targeting you, they're "managing" data speeds when you've reached a "certain data-usage level." And don't worry, because "high data users will feel the smallest possible impact and only experience reduced data speeds when necessary for us to optimize data network traffic in that area."

Verizon's need to keep a close eye on its network and curtail speeds for its highest data users demonstrates once again the very real pressures facing 3G data networks as more and more customers crave instant access to data on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Regardless of Verizon's florid reassurance, some customers will doubtless feel a pinch. On the other hand, the unaffected 95 percent may appreciate noticing nothing out of the ordinary.