OK, class, define \u201cunlimited."\nIf you\u2019re a normal person\u00a0your definition likely looks like this: "not limited; unrestricted; unconfined.\u201d But if you\u2019re a wireless carrier you apparently define the term differently. To carriers, \u201cunlimited\u201d means as much as you want until they say you\u2019ve used too much.\n\nI\u2019m talking about data, of course. Verizon and AT&T have long since discontinued unlimited data plans. Sprint and T-Mobile still offer them, but they penalize you if you use too much. The penalty comes in the form of throttling, which means your connection speed is slowed way down for a period of time.\nVerizon has been trading barbs with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its policy of throttling heavy users. Verizon had been slowing down users who consume too much (in Verizon's view) 3G data, and now it says it will start to throttle heavy 4G users by October. The FCC cried foul, and Verizon fired back.\u00a0 Much of its defense boils down to this: Everyone else does it, why can't we? (Verizon responded to the FCC via a letter you can read here.)\nThere\u2019s some truth to Verizon's claim. Everyone, at least all four major U.S. carriers, admit to throttling heavy users, though you may have to read some small print to find the admissions. So why single out Verizon?\nVerizon no longer offers unlimited data plans. But it still has a significant number of subscribers with so-called "legacy" plans that include the feature. These people are the ones who will be throttled if they use a lot data in heavily congested areas when lots of people are using the network.\nThis might be reasonable if Verizon slowed all of its customers. If the company did, I\u2019d be more inclined to believe it when it claims that throttling is simply a necessary form of network management. But Verizon doesn\u2019t throttle other customers; only the ones on old, unlimited plans, which makes me think the company wants to push them to more profitable plans.\n\nAT&T does something similar: it throttles unlimited customers on legacy plans who use more than 5GB of data in one billing period. That mocks the idea of \u201cunlimited\u201d data, but at least AT&T only throttles the customers for a single billing period. Verizon does it for two billing periods, which seems more like punishment than network management.\nT-Mobile, which loves to call itself the \u201cuncarrier,\u201d explains its policy on throttling like so: \u201cCustomers who use more data than 95 percent of customers on the same rate plan typically use in a month may, during times and places of congestion, have their data usage prioritized below other customers.\u201d That's a convoluted way of saying they\u2019ll be throttled.\nSo is Verizon worse than the rest of the bunch? On this issue, it is. But the whole bunch is crummy.\nOn a different\u00a0\u2014 but related\u00a0\u2014 note, I want to add that the collapse of Sprint\u2019s proposed purchase of T-Mobile is very good news for consumers. Combining the number three and four carriers would have been a serious blow to competition in the wireless market. Sprint\u2019s owner, Japan\u2019s Softbank, likely realized that U.S. regulators would not approve the merger and therefore pulled the plug.