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Wheeler to Verizon: Throttling Is Not Network Management

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 9:51am
Andrew Berg

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is concerned about Verizon's plans to throttle customers who use too much data. 

In a letter to Verizon CEO Dan Mead, the Chairman voiced his objections to plans Verizon announced last week to begin throttling LTE customers on unlimited plans that use an exorbitant amount of data. Verizon said the change will only affect about 5 percent of its users and it is being done in the name of network managment. 

Wheeler took issue with how Verizon framed the issue, saying that he feels Verizon may be misinterpreting the FCC's rules on network management. 

"Reasonable network management concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams," Wheeler wrote, saying that 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 notes that legitimate network management purposes could include: "ensuring network security and integrity, including by addressing traffic that is harmful to the network; addressing traffic that is unwantedby end users (including by premise operators), such as by providing services or capabilities consistent with an end user's choices regarding parental controls or security capabilities; and reducing or mitigating the effects of congestion on the network." 

The letter ends with Wheeler's solicitation of answers to questions about how Verizon will justify the practice and the reasoning behind extending throttling from the carrier's 3G network to its LTE subscribers. 

Wheeler also wants to know how Verizon justifies the policy with regards to the 700 MHz C Block open platform rules, as well as the 2010 Open Internet rules, both of which contain wording that govern how mobile carriers can and cannot restrict access to their networks. 

Both Verizon and AT&T have been doing their best to push users off legacy unlimited plans and onto capped buckets of data. Verizon currently requires that customers who want to upgrade their devices buy them at full price in order to stay on their unlimited plans. AT&T came clean on its throttling of unlimited plans back in 2012.  

We have reached out to both Verizon and AT&T for comment and will update this story when we have a response. 

 

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