FCC Chairman Dismisses Verizon’s Defense Of Throttling High-Bandwidth Customers

Verizon announced in late July that it would start throttling the 4G data speeds of customers on unlimited data plans who are among the top 5 percent of their users when it comes to consumption of mobile data, and were “connected to cell sites experiencing heavy demand.”

The FCC wasn’t too pleased. The commission sent Verizon a letter stating that “‘reasonable network management'” was not “a loophole designed to enhance [their] revenue streams.” The FCC was irked that Verizon would slow the speeds of its customers not for “legitimate network management,” but what appeared to be direct targeting of customers with unlimited data plans.

It’s in the obvious business interest of Verizon to get unlimited customers off of their unlimited plans, and onto tiered plans that have overage fees. Customers love unlimited plans because they allow them to live in the future, a time in which all mobile plans will come with unlimited data.

By slowing the data speeds of unlimited customers past a certain data threshold, Verizon kneecaps unlimited plans, making them in essence un-unlimited. Since customers are paying for unlimited data, there is tension present.

Verizon shot back, saying that the practice wasn’t uncommon among mobile carriers.

Today FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler dissed the argument, saying that:

“All the kids do it” is something that never worked with me when I was growing up, and it didn’t work for my kids. We have to be careful about attempts to reframe the issue.

Chairman Wheeler has been under withering fire in the past few months following the introduction of his proposed net neutrality rules that have proven unpopular. I wouldn’t be surprised if taking up the Verizon complaint is something akin to a motion to recapture some public standing.