Yesterday, Verizon managed to annoy current and future consumers by making some big changes to its Unlimited plans. The most contentious has been the decision to throttle all video to a maximum of 720p on smartphones, including for all new and current customers.
Verizon claims that you “won’t see the difference” between 720p and 4K on your fancy 1440p smartphone, which is a very alternative fact. But don’t worry: if you want to keep streaming truly HD video over Verizon’s network, there’s an easy way to make that happen.
Go sign up for a VPN. They normally cost around $5 per month, and basically encrypt all your data, send it to a server somewhere else that decrypts it, and then passes it on to the rest of the internet. Imagine it like a sealed diplomatic bag that you put all your data in and Verizon can’t peek inside. Thanks to the magic of encryption, there’s no way to work out if someone using a VPN is streaming YouTube or just downloading a bunch of apps, so Verizon can’t tell the difference.
The CEO of NordVPN confirmed to BGR that a VPN will bypass Verizon’s throttling, saying “While a VPN can slow down Internet traffic in some cases, it’s a good option to use when an ISP interferes with normal streaming speeds. Without a VPN, a user will more likely get limited speeds from their ISP, which creates buffering, delays and lower quality videos. A VPN allows to stream videos with fewer interruptions.”
I can also confirm with tests conducted with a Verizon SIM and my own VPN that it prevents Netflix from being throttled.
There are some caveats: VPNs cost money, they can slow your speeds — particularly increasing latency — and thanks to Netflix’s policy against using VPNs to get around geoblocked content, using a VPN might cause problems specifically with Netflix. (Using small VPN providers or setting up your own VPN is the best way to avoid that.)
There’s also the fact that you’re deliberately skirting a Verizon policy, and there’s a chance that Verizon could notice the unusual traffic, investigate it, and choose to shut down your account. But banning VPNs on its network would likely annoy even more Verizon customers who use them for legitimate purposes, so I’d guess that the risk is small.