FCC Questions Verizon’s Plan to Throttle Unlimited Mobile Data Customers on 4G Network

The Federal Communications Commission has sent a letter to Verizon asking the company a series of pointed questions concerning its plan to throttle unlimited data plan customers on its 4G LTE networks. The company announced earlier this month that it planned to start prioritizing customers who were not unlimited data plan customers over those who are – all in the name of network management.

Chairman Tom Wheeler sent a letter to Verizon CEO Daniel Mead on Wednesday, voicing his concerns over the changes and requesting that some clarification on how Verizon can justify throttling customers under the Open Internet Order and in the name of reasonable 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 in his letter to Mead. "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."

More specifically Verizon plans to start limiting customers who are in the top five percent of data usage and have an unlimited data plan. Verizon plans to start doing this on its 4G LTE networks in October.

Wheeler's letter goes on to note that no prior commission statement has indicated that what Verizon wants to do could be considered reasonable network management.

The chairman goes on to ask Mead three very specific questions about this plan:

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?

Verizon has said that instituting this new policy will give "95 percent of its customers a consistent usage experience," and that this new policy "affects only a small number of people."

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

You can check out Wheeler's letter to Mead here.

Source: Apple Insider

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