Last week Verizon announced a new ‘network optimization’ initiative to begin throttling some 4G LTE customers on unlimited data plans. The carrier is planing to start slowing the speeds of the top 5% of its unlimited LTE users when they’re connected to a busy cell site.
Following the recent revelation, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has sent a letter to the carrier asking for clarification on the new policy.
In the letter, Wheeler is interested whether Verizon feels the need to only throttle customers on exact plans, rather than throttling based on the needs of the technology that powers the network. “‘Reasonable network management’ concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams,” Wheeler said. “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.”
Wheeler also asks Verizon to answer the following questions:
1. What is your rationale for treating customers differently based on the type of data plan to which they subscribe, rather than network architecture or technological factors? 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% of data users, you can switch to a usage-based data plan as customers on usage-based plans are not impacted.”
2. Why is Verizon Wireless extending speed reductions from its 3G network to its much more efficient 4G LTE network?
3. How does Verizon Wireless justify this policy consistent with its continuing obligations under the 700 MHz C Block open platform rules, under which Verizon Wireless may not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of end users to download and utilize applications of their choosing on the C Block networks; how can this conduct be justified under the Commission’s 2010 Open Internet rules, including the transparency rule that remains in effect?
“What we announced last week was a highly targeted and very limited network optimization effort, only targeting cell sites experiencing high demand,” Verizon stated. “The purpose is to ensure there is capacity for everyone in those limited circumstances, and that high users don’t limit capacity for others.”
It will definitely be interesting to see how the things will be moving in the months leading up to October, when the new throttling policy is scheduled to go into effect.