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FCC to Verizon: Your throttling had better be about managing congestion, not cash

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Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, isn’t impressed with Verizon’s recently announced plan to throttle the speeds on its unlimited plans. In a letter to CEO Dan Mead, he asked Verizon to respond to three questions about its plans. Verizon’s stated reasons for the new policy is to help it manage its LTE network congestion, but Wheeler’s query indicates he’s pretty skeptical of Verizon’s justification.

My colleague Kevin Fitchard described the plan this way:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]On October 1, Verizon will start throttling back LTE speeds on its heaviest unlimited-plan subscribers when they move into congested cells on its networks. What that means is that when the network gets crowded, Verizon will prioritize 4G customers who buy their data by the gigabyte over unlimited plan customers who fall into the top fifth percentile of monthly data usage.[/blockquote]

The letter from Chairman Wheeler is actually pretty scathing, especially for an agency that recently lost a major court case against Verizon over network neutrality. Wheeler writes:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”Reasonable network management” concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams. It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its “network management” on distinctions among its customers’ data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.[/blockquote]

Wheeler argues that not only does the transparency aspect of the now-neutered Open Internet Order apply here, but asked if this behavoir is justifiable under the terms of the 700 MHz auction that saw Verizon picking up spectrum that came with some caveats — namely that it may not “deny, limit, or restrict the ability of end users to download and utilize applications of their choosing,” on the chunk of Verizon spectrum used to deliver some LTE services.

While the letter is strongly worded, I do wonder why the agency is focused on Verizon when other wireless operators also throttle unlimited users on their networks. Perhaps it has a bone to pick with Big Red and the means to do so thanks to the rules associated with the 700 Mhz auction.

7 Responses to “FCC to Verizon: Your throttling had better be about managing congestion, not cash”

  1. JB_DeafMacUser

    FYI: Majority of grandfather plan are under Deaf & Hard of Hearing Verizon users who rely on Video call via Video Relay Service or Point to Point. It is sad to see how Verizon misused us Deaf, HH and Speech Impaired for their reason against net neutrality. They want to impose on us by limit our data and at the same time Verizon are throwing with unlimited Long Distance call and unlimited Text Message for hearing callers. We are the force to limit our video call equiv. 1GB data = 14 hours video call per month! Is that reasonable while majority of hearing people get unlimited LD voice call per month.

    Both Verizon and AT&T want to use VoLTE to be a bill as voice calls not the data usage at all. The problem is that both LTE and VoLTE are on same data line.

    By the way, both Verizon and AT&T manipulate us to try to get us off our Grandfather plan by using the throttle on us. It is our functional equivalency communication access. No wonder, both Verizon and AT&T made this plan by having us to remove our “Grandfather Plan – Unlimted Data” several years ago. Unwitty of them to do that us!

    • JayNorris

      So what I heard is Verizon HATES the def & hard of hearing. While I’m neither I do have an unlimited plan and really don’t plan on upgrading anytime soon. Naturally hearing this news concerns me. Force my hand to up/downgrade (it’s a matter of perspective) to a managed plan! No thank you, I’m not ready and I don’t want to be forced. It’s bad enough that I can’t make a single change on my account without agreeing to modify my existing plan. I realize Verizon is sick and tired of their Unlimited Data users, but this is a horrible way to deal with it. They have to honor their contract with those users. I’d think degrading the bandwidth knowingly would somehow violation of contract terms and conditions.

  2. Exactly, this is coded in 47CFR27.16

    This was not part of the Net Neutrality rules that were struck down in court. It has to do with the C Block agreement that is coded into law and to which VZW subscribed during that auction thanks to Google.

  3. Reblogged this on Taste of Apple and commented:
    Whatever it’s reason, there’s approximately 20% of Verizon customers who are affected by such changes. It seems like a weak excuse to force people with unlimited data off and onto a tiered data plan, in order to increase revenue.