I equate this issue to one simple problem for Verizon: poor customer service. It has nothing to do with bytes being categorized or handled differently in some way. Verizon isn't even intentionally reading the content of those packets we perceive as being slowed down.
Verizon refuses to upgrade their network because they are being greedy.
But you may ask - how are they being greedy? The Netflix's and YouTube's of the world are sending large amounts of data through Verizon's networks... why shouldn't they get paid for that? Let me answer that by asking a question of my own.
What would happen if a cellphone provider said, "I refuse to upgrade my wireless network towers from 2G up to 3G or 4G"? The answer is simple, they would lose all their customers.
If any well-known cellphone provider decided that it was going to scrap all it's tower upgrades going forward, and only provide the most basic cellular service to its customers, I can guarantee their customer base would accelerate out the door. If is so happened that Sprint or T-Mobile made an announcement like that, their doors would be spinning so fast, we'd see their entire networks collapse in no time. No self-respecting customer would accept or expect a service provider to explicitly say "I refuse to upgrade; it's too expensive. If you want faster, better, more reliable service, look elsewhere."
But that's exactly what Verizon is doing here.
When Verizon refuses to upgrade their networks, they are making a clear statement that they don't want to upgrade because it costs them money. Obviously, they don't like to spend money. But it's more than that, Verizon is acting specifically this way because the American public has effectively said this is 100% OK.
Ignorant users gladly put up with poor or less than acceptable home ISP service, while simply paying more for the appearance that we're getting more than we actually do. This remains true so long as there is a new shiny object (i.e. iPhone 1 released on completely under-powered 2G-EDGE networks). As long as the new "shiny" can distract attention away from the poor service that supports it, we never realize the service is lackluster or hopefully being upgraded, eve if it's at a snail's pace. This whole problem boils down to a perception problem on our part. Here's the logic behind my entire point to all this nonsense:
- Verizon doesn't upgrade because it costs them money (obviously)
- ISPs like Comcast and Verizon have enough clout and leverage, that smaller companies like Netflix have no choice but to bend and pay ISPs separately for what Comcast calls "priority service" - network neutrality be damned
- There is not nearly enough competition to force the incumbent ISPs to change their strategy
- Until customers start truly voting with their wallet or voice their opinion until it is deafening to their ISPs, the issue will never be dealt with
It's clear already, video streaming is only going to get bigger. All the major technology players are throwing their hat into this ring. Amazon, Google, Apple, Netflix, etc., they all have spent a TON of money outfitting their systems with high-bandwidth network pipes capable of pushing petabytes of data out to millions of customers at once. But companies like Verizon and Comcast are the last mile. They are the big gate keeper that sends all the data that reaches from the cloud into your living room. And now we've set a terrible precedent that allows them to bully all these technologically more advanced companies into PAYING THEM to deliver content that the ISP's own customers requested. Contrary to Verizon and Comcast's claims, the direction of the humungous surge in network traffic isn't coming because Netflix, YouTube and Hulu are forcing the data down Verizon's throat, all that glorious content is being requested from Verizon's own customers. Which brings me back to the point that this is an issue of customer service.
Verizon is acting like the Ma Bell from which it sprouted again. They are refusing to upgrade the interconnections between their networks and the large in-flowing pipes trying to provide the content that all those millions of customers are asking for. We're all paying our ISP's fees. I do so monthly for the 75/35mbps FIOS connection, but Netflix streaming in my house sucks day or night. I can't get better than 480p to work on my iPad or Apple TV.
Verizon is looking at this situation with Comcast and Netflix and wringing their hands together hoping to capitalize at our expense. I'm already paying for my internet connection and so is Netflix from their end... but Verizon is holding their hand out again saying they won't upgrade their service unless someone else pays them to do so. This is ludicrous logic, but Verizon is patient enough and they're holding too many cards to be ignored.
I will be leaving Verizon FIOS soon, but with so few other options available to me, even in a techno-centric city like Pittsburgh, what other choice do I have?