August 7, 2014
Verizon Defends Decision To Start Throttling Some Unlimited 4G LTE Customers
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A top mobile service provider is defending the decision to limit its decision to slow data transfer speeds for some customers, stating that it would only happen in “very limited circumstances” and is also accusing the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of coming down hard on the company over a common industry practice.According to CNET reporter Marguerite Reardon, Verizon Wireless CEO Daniel Mead said during a press conference on Monday that he was surprised to receive a scathing letter from the FCC which accused the wireless services provider of unfairly singling out unlimited data customers in its new high-usage throttling policy announced last month.
That policy is an expansion of Verizon’s existing “network optimization policy,” which currently limits the data usage of 3G customers. It is scheduled to begin in October, and will apply to 4G LTE smartphone customers on unlimited data plans who rank in the upper five percent of data users (which, as of March, would have been anyone using at least 4.7GB in a single month) and who are month-to month customers currently without a contract.
Mead has defended his company’s decision to expand the policy, Reardon explained, stating that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler misunderstood the policy and had made incorrect assumptions about the program. Mead also noted that the existing throttling plan, instituted in 2011 under a different FCC chairman, had drawn no criticism from the agency and that he did not understand why there would be any issues with the decision to expand it.
The company has also sent a letter to the FCC, emphasizing that customers would only experience slowdowns “under very limited circumstances” and only at specific cell sites currently experiencing “unusually high demand,” said Chris Welch of The Verge. Verizon also promised that any throttling would stop immediately once data demands returned to normal.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, in the original letter, Wheeler wrote that it was “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. ’Reasonable network management’ concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams.”
As reported by Marina Lopes and Alina Selyukh of Reuters, Verizon senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs Kathleen Grillo responded, “The type of network optimization policy that we follow has been endorsed by the FCC as a narrowly targeted way to ensure a fair allocation of capacity during times of congestion.”
Grillo added that the practice “has been widely accepted with little or no controversy,” and Mead told reporters the expansion of the policy was “absolutely… the right thing to do” and that it was “in line with the FCC's principles.” The CEO also said he was “surprised” to receive Wheeler’s letter, and while he had “great respect” for the agency, he was “not sure the chairman understood what we're doing exactly.”
Verizon has previously explained that the types of activities which could result in slower connection speeds are viewing high-definition streaming video or playing real-time online gaming. The new restrictions will also include an exemption for any business or government organization that has signed a major account agreement, and is said to be the company’s attempt to ensure most users experience roughly the same data transfer rates.
“We understand that our customers rely on their smartphones and tablets every day,” VP for technology Mike Haberman said of the new policy in late July. “Our network optimization policy provides the best path to ensure a continued great wireless experience for all of our customers on the best and largest wireless network in the US.”
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