We only have a couple of options for internet access where we live. It is basically a “dead” zone. We are at the outer limits of several providers, but because of our location, most of them cannot or will not provide access to our home.
We actually started out using dial-up access when we first moved here, but I was fortunate enough to stumble across a provider named Millenicom that provides high speed internet access via a USB modem. I am not sure how they do it, but they are basically reselling data access through Verizon Wireless. We get 20 gigabytes a month for $60. That is much more expensive than DSL through AT&T and other local providers, but we are more than happy to pay it to avoid waiting several minutes for a web page to load.
Recently, I noticed the images on this website began appearing grainy and pixelated. A speed test also confirmed that we are receiving approximately half the speed we were getting before. I initially thought it was connected to the new theme I activated, but after contacting the theme creator and being reassured it had nothing to do with it, I looked elsewhere. Since I don’t have grainy images at work (via AT&T), I narrowed it down to our home. After I eliminated our wireless router as the culprit, I contacted Millenicom. They also assured me they were doing nothing that would affect image quality while using the internet.
While googling the issue, I discovered this February announcement from Verizon Wireless:
Verizon Wireless strives to provide customers the best experience when using our network, a shared resource among tens of millions of customers. To help achieve this, if you use an extraordinary amount of data and fall within the top 5% of Verizon Wireless data users we may reduce your data throughput speeds periodically for the remainder of your then current and immediately following billing cycle to ensure high quality network performance for other users at locations and times of peak demand.
These techniques include caching less data, using less capacity, and sizing the video more appropriately for the device. The optimization process is agnostic to the content itself and to the website that provides it. While we invest much effort to avoid changing text, image, and video files in the compression process and while any change to the file is likely to be indiscernible, the optimization process may minimally impact the appearance of the file as displayed on your device.
I also discovered that they actually implemented the practice in September. Apparently, Verizon doesn’t like the fact that we used almost 18 gigabytes of data last month – mainly due to my uploading music to Google and watching a couple of television episodes online.
What irritates me about this is we are promised 20gb/month on our plan. We shouldn’t be throttled or have our connection degraded if we use less than that amount. Imagine if your cell phone plans allows you 1,200 minutes each month, but you find that after using 900 minutes, you have problems placing calls or the voice quality is degraded. Doesn’t seem fair to me.
Verizon Wireless has proven time and time again that they don’t really care about their customers. This is just another example of them reducing their quality of service while charging the same price.
What I wouldn’t give for other options.
UPDATE: I sent another email to Millenicom explaining what I think is happening. They contacted Verizon and were told my account is not being throttled. I have done tests by comparing uploaded images with the ones on my hard drive and there is significant degradation in quality. I also found this post that explains exactly what I am seeing, and it is definitely a result of Verizon’s image compression.
The images below demonstrate how images are being compressed. The first image is via AT&T. The second is via Verizon.
UPDATE: Thanks to the kind folks over on DSLReports, I discovered a work around for the image compression. To view an image without compression in IE, press Ctrl+Shift+Refresh. In Chrome, Ctrl+F5 twice.