FCC Questions Verizon’s Limits On Unlimited Data

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday grilled Verizon on its plans to slow down the data of the top 5 percent of 4G LTE unlimited users.

For the past two and half years, Verizon has engaged in a process commonly known as throttling that slows down the data of the top 5 percent of the heaviest 3G data users. On Friday the company announced this policy, which they’ve termed “network optimization,” would be expanded to 4G LTE unlimited data users in October.

But Wheeler won’t let that happen so fast. In the letter to Verizon, he wrote that he was “deeply troubled” by the announcement. He said if Verizon describes this policy as “network management,” under the Commission’s rules it would have to base such management on network architecture or technology — not specific plans.

“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.

But this practice is nothing new — most major carriers have been doing this since they introduced tiered data plans in an attempt to move users away from the unlimited plans that were offered in the early days of smart phones. Once it became popular to stream large amounts of data like video or music on your mobile device, service providers looked to shift away from these types of data plans.

As an AT&T subscriber whose data has been “throttled,” I can say firsthand it’s really annoying. If you’re paying for unlimited data, your data should actually be unlimited.

In the letter, Wheeler asked Verizon a series of questions, all asking the company how it could justify this practice under existing regulations.

We’ll be tracking Verizon’s response. Hopefully this inquiry could be the beginning of the end to an unfair practice phone companies use that target some of their oldest and most loyal customers.