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Verizon to FCC: Throttling Unlimited Users “Widely Accepted”

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 10:21am
Ben Munson

Verizon has officially responded to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler after the Commissioner criticized the carrier’s decision to start slowing data speeds for some unlimited plan customers on its LTE network.

The United States’ largest carrier called the practice “widely accepted,” according to Reuters. Verizon CEO Dan Mead, to whom the FCC’s letter was addressed, said the policy was in line with FCC principles.

Verizon calls the practice “network optimization” and says that it will only apply to the top five percent of users on unlimited plans and will only take effect when the network is congested. The carrier says the policy will “ensure the fair allocation of capacity.”

Wheeler took umbrage with Verizon’s apparent focus on users instead of the network itself.

"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."

Network management like the policy Verizon just put in place is becoming more commonplace as many carriers work to move customers away from unlimited data plans.

Verizon requires customers pay full price for device upgrades if they want to keep their unlimited plans. AT&T owned up to throttling unlimited customers back in 2012.

Even Sprint, which touts its Unlimited for Life plans, has implemented a similar strategy to Verizon, slowing speeds for the top five percent of its data users when sites become congested.

Sprint was vehement in defending its own network management rules and said the practice is not the same as throttling.

“With network prioritization, speed is reduced only when a customer is connected to a congested cell site, during a time of congestion. Once the customer connects to a non-congested site, or the congested site becomes no longer congested, speed returns to normal,” a Sprint spokesperson told Wireless Week. “This means any impact to a customer’s data experience may last as little as a matter of seconds or hours, depending on their location and time of day.”

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