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Verizon's Unlimited 3G Data Users Get Throttled Too

Are you one of Verizon's customers who still has an unlimited data plan? Typically this group already subscribed to unlimited data long before the wireless carrier switched over to tiered pricing, and thus weren't forced to convert to the new standard as a courtesy. But despite the all-you-can-eat data buffet, Verizon will still regulate how that "unlimited" 3G package will be consumed by throttling the heavy users.

"95-percent of our data customers will not see any change in service," states the company on its web site. "You'll continue surfing the Web, downloading music, uploading pictures and sending emails just as you always have. The highest data users, the top 5-percent with 3G devices on unlimited data plans, may experience managed data speeds when connected to a congested 3G cell site after reaching certain data-usage levels in a bill cycle. 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."

Did you get that? Data hogs with an unlimited package will be identified as one of the top 5-percent once they go over a 2 GB limit. But unlike AT&T which will keep the heavy user throttled after reaching 3 GB until the end of the billing cycle (even if the network isn't congested), Verizon will resume the user's true 3G speed once the congestion on the nearby cell site subsides. Depending on the duration of the heavy traffic, the throttling could last minutes or for several hours. Throttling could also stop once a user's phone connects to another cell tower.

"Like a highway system, wireless networks are not filled with users every minute of every day," reads CNET's latest Ask Maggie. "There are peak times when congestion is heaviest, like during rush hour on the highway. And then there are lulls, when there are far fewer users on the network and all traffic moves smoothly."

Currently the only way new Verizon customers can get unlimited data is to opt for a prepaid smartphone and one of the company's three 3G-based prepaid calling plans: $65 for 450 minutes, $85 for 900 minutes and $95 for unlimited calling. These customers can tack on an unlimited data plan for an extra $30 a month. Currently Verizon doesn't offer 4G LTE prepaid calling plans, but subscribers to Verizon's 4G LTE plans won't ever see their connection throttled anyway, as the "network optimization" only applies to the 3G portion.