FCC chairman grills Verizon over data throttling

Tom Wheeler's sharply worded letter questions why Verizon is singling out customers with unlimited plans

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has sharply questioned Verizon Wireless over its plan announced last week to throttle mobile data speeds for customers with unlimited plans.

In a letter to Verizon Wireless President and CEO Dan Mead on Wednesday, Wheeler challenged Verizon's plans to treat customers differently based on their data plans rather than on network technology issues. His questioning suggested Verizon wants to slow down subscribers' service so they'll switch to a plan with a limited monthly data allowance.

"'Reasonable network management' concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams," Wheeler wrote.

Verizon plans to sometimes scale back connection speeds for the top 5 percent of data users who are still on plans that let them send and receive unlimited amounts of data in a month. The company no longer sells such plans to new customers but allows those who had them in the past to keep them. Verizon claims its planned throttling practice, which it calls Network Optimization, is intended to protect the experience of all users at times and places where its network is experiencing high demand.

In his letter, Wheeler focused on the fact that Verizon is aiming the practice specifically at its remaining unlimited-data customers.

"I know of no past Commission statement that would treat as 'reasonable network management' a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for 'unlimited' service," Wheeler wrote.

He cited information about Network Optimization on Verizon's website. "In particular, please explain your statement that, 'If you're on an unlimited data plan and are concerned that you are in the top 5 percent of data users, you can switch to a usage-based data plan as customers on usage-based plans are not impacted.'"

Wheeler also asked why the carrier would expand its practice of speed throttling from its 3G network to its LTE infrastructure, which carries data much more efficiently. He also questioned the Network Optimization policy based on rules imposed on Verizon when it took on licenses in the prized 700MHz spectrum band. Those rules forbid Verizon from restricting users from downloading and using applications of their choice in the so-called C Block where its 700MHz frequencies lie, Wheeler wrote.

In a statement on Wednesday, Verizon called Network Optimization a limited practice.

"We will officially respond to the Chairman's letter once we have received and reviewed it. However, what we announced last week was a highly targeted and very limited network optimization effort, only targeting cell sites experiencing high demand. The purpose is to ensure there is capacity for everyone in those limited circumstances, and that high users don't limit capacity for others," Verizon said.

Wheeler himself is under pressure on the hot topic of how broadband providers should be allowed to manage their networks. Earlier this year he proposed regulations to replace former FCC rules on net neutrality, which a federal court had earlier struck down. Those rules suggest carriers could sell higher priority treatment on their networks to content providers.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Federal Communications CommissionregulationmobilegovernmentVerizon Wireless

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?