Light Reading

FCC Boss 'Disturbed' By Verizon Throttling

Sarah Thomas

Count the head of the FCC amongst those who are not happy with Verizon's decision to 'throttle' the heaviest 5% of data users on congested cell sites.

In a letter released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week, Chairman Tom Wheeler called into question Verizon Wireless 's plan to extend its 3G "Network Optimization" policy to its 4G LTE network. Beginning in October, the carrier plans to slow down network connections for heavy unlimited data customers that "have fulfilled their minimum contract term" on LTE and are on a heavily-trafficked cell site. (See Verizon Applies 3G Throttling Policy to LTE.)

Wheeler said he was "deeply troubled" by this policy given that Verizon is basing network management on data plan distinctions rather than on network architecture or technology. He wrote: "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."

He sees the move as a way for Verizon to ease more users off unlimited plans and onto other packages in order to make them more profitable customers. "Reasonable network management concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams," Wheeler said.

Verizon responded that it's reviewing Wheeler's letter and will draft a formal response in the timeframe requested, but it reiterated that this is a "highly targeted and very limited network optimization effort."

Want to know more about 4G LTE? Check out our dedicated 4G LTE content channel here on Light Reading.

Wheeler is trying to make a name for himself as a consumer advocate and defender of the open Web with protests such as this and his stand against device unlocking restrictions. It's worth noting, however, that most carriers have some sort of throttling in place, and some are farther reaching too, including that practised by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which throttles anyone that exceeds 5GB of LTE data during the course of a month. (See Phone Unlocking: Almost Legal, Still Not Easy.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Lightning
8/18/2014 | 6:01:53 PM
Re: Trust but Verify


You bring up some good points.  Be happy to discuss directly with you.



Greg W. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/18/2014 | 5:09:52 PM
Re: Trust but Verify

I am not forgetting....let me give you some thoughts as a debate....

1 - Is Verizon going to offer a service that GUARANTEES anything?  Is Verizon going to manage the millions of endpoints involved on a GUARANTEED basis?  Netflix is not paying extra for anything without an SLA.  Think about that and the legal/administrative needs involved.  I think it might cost more than its worth.  Just my opinion.

2 - Verizon makes a lot of money today as do all the facility based ISPs.  They want more.  You are the one that said they need to make a fair rate of return.  You need to define that that way we can agree on a number.

3 - Let's go to the video side of FiOS or U-Verse or any cable system.  I would say that the broadband service is riding for free on the services that are created by Netflix and Google et al.  That is a LOT better deal for them than they get on the other content business where they have to PAY to get content.  I can't wait until Google shows up at Verizon and demands a payment to allow Verizon customers to use Google Services.  And remember, all bandwidth is paid for by someone or other (Google pays its service providers and consumers pay their ISP).  Don't forget that the ISPs get a free ride here as well.




User Rank: Lightning
8/18/2014 | 2:31:43 PM
Re: Trust but Verify


You are forgetting the other side of N.N.   What if Netflix wants to pay VZ or any last 50 mile service provider to ensure their traffic, hence their service, meets their customer expectations.  They have competition too.  Give the previous NN regs Netflix could not pay for better service.  

VZ et al spend billions building, upgrading and maintaining networks including the extremely expensive access network.  Why can they not earn a fair return on that investment?  They ARE not a public utility as far as broadband goes.  I'm not an accountant so fair to me is what the market will bear given user demand and competitive pressures. 

Ironically, People have angst when VZ tries to make a profit on their heavy lifting yet no one seems to mind that Google, et al who get a free ride earn $1000's per SECOND.  

User Rank: Light Sabre
8/18/2014 | 12:17:44 PM
Re: Trust but Verify

So when you say Net Neutrality is bad, that has potentially broad connotations.  So, before you get completely ripped....let's clarify.  Let's say that Verizon and Netflix are the companies in a discussion here.  Should Verizon be able to:

1 - Block Netflix completely?

2 - Throttle Netflix to an amount that makes their streams unwatchable?

3 - Toss away Netflix traffic if it exceeds a specfic amount?

4 - Require that Netflix pay Verizon for letting its traffic traverse its network?

Now the other problem is that you have defined that Verizon in this case should get a "reasonable return on their investment".  What is that return?


User Rank: Lightning
8/18/2014 | 11:15:58 AM
Trust but Verify
This is a great case in point about the FCC need to trust but verify.  I think Net Neutrality is bad and the SPs should have more flexibility to earn a reasonable return on their investment.  Yet... Trust but Verify!
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 4:17:01 PM
Unlimited doesn't mean what you think it means...
And "up to" is a very key set of four letters that means you won't get speeds anywhere near as fast as printed in the marketing material.

It's hard trust any wireless carrier's ads.. when their terms of service are written in 4-point font and stretch on for several pages.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/4/2014 | 2:39:12 PM
Re: Posturing or true outrage?
mendyk - "We are all so easily outraged."

I'm outraged that you should say that. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/4/2014 | 1:26:05 PM
Re: Posturing or true outrage?
We are all so easily outraged. The big issue here is that mobile operators need to stop promising things they can't or won't deliver. Let's start with the word "unlimited." It's misleading at best. Even if you cover it with an asterisk and fine print, it connotes a promise that can't be kept.
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