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Is Verizon's Video Throttling a Sign of Things to Come?

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Verizon caused a small dustup among video streamers this weekend when people noticed—and tech sites verified—that it was capping video streaming at 10Mbps. When confronted with the data, the company told Ars Technica the limits were temporary, part of network testing designed to improve video application performance. It denied this was a mobile data cap.

The 10Mbps limit wouldn't impact most mobile streamers, and Verizon denied that its tests had impaired viewer performance. Few mobile devices are able to display 4K video, which would require speeds over 10Mbps.

This isn't happening in a vacuum, however, but at a time when net neutrality rules are in jeopardy. While the carriers are still required to observe net neutrality, there may not be any punishment if they didn't.

"The timing of this story is both good and bad for Verizon," explains Brett Sappington, senior director of research for Parks Associates. "Given the position of the current FCC leadership, there seems to be little demand within the FCC to enforce net neutrality vigorously until new net neutrality rules are defined and put in place. Verizon’s 'testing' may affect those considerations, particularly if the new FCC opts to use this issue as an opportunity to assert its authority."

Verizon could find itself in a bind if it doesn't do something about mobile data. Mobile video traffic has been growing rapidly for years and will continue to do so. With competition fierce to offer unlimited data plans, carriers could find it difficult to keep up.

"Verizon is in somewhat of a difficult position. If video traffic gets to be so high that it affects Verizon’s ability to provide effective voice or other data traffic, it could cause subscribers to leave Verizon for another carrier," Sappington adds. "As a result, mobile carriers have to test optimization technologies to maximize their spectrum investment and ensure a good user experience."

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