Verizon Still Plans to Throttle Unlimited Data Users Regardless of FCC Concerns

By Joe Rizzo August 05, 2014

I see a picture in my mind of everyone’s mother saying, “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” This seems to be the attitude and quite frankly, the answer that Verizon has given to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). I always find it interesting to see the biggest corporations in the world acting as if they are still in the school yard during recess!

Last week, Tom Wheeler, who is the FCC chairman, stated his concerns, in what is considered to be a strongly-worded letter that he was not happy about Verizon’s plan to start slowing down customers on unlimited data plans beginning in October. This type of slowdown is referred to as “throttling”. From all accounts, Wheeler actually appears to be quite incensed about it as he said that he was “deeply troubled” by the news.

The news is that starting in just a few months, in October Verizon will begin to apply what it is referring to as its “network optimization” practices. Beginning on October 1, 2014, Verizon will slow you down if you are "connected to cell sites experiencing heavy demand”. The problem is that Verizon's policy is anything but straightforward. If that is not enough, it is my no means a universal policy.

Wheeler’s main reason for concern is that Verizon is treating customers differently based on data plan type. He sent the carrier a series of questions designed to explain its rationale, while also asking the question of whether the policy was justified un the FCC’s Open Internet rules.

If you are a Verizon customer and meet all of the following criteria, you might be at risk of having your speed throttled:

  • You are using a 4G LTE smartphone on an unlimited data plan
  • Your current data usage falls within the top 5 percent of all Verizon users. This ceiling will almost certainly fluctuate in the future. As of March, hitting 4.7GB in a single month was enough to put you over it
  • You're a month-to-month customer. Most people probably fall into this category, but if you've recently managed to renew your contract, you don't need to worry about throttling. This is one situation where being under contract is a good thing. Of course, extending an unlimited plan isn't supposed to be technically possible anymore. But where there's a will there's a way, and users have occasionally discovered loopholes that allow the plans to be renewed for another two years

On August 1, 2014, Verizon officially responded to Wheeler’s concerns. According to the Verge, who was able to obtain a copy of Verizon’s response, in addition to saying that it was perfectly legal for them to do it the main response was “everyone else is doing it!” Verizon also feels that by letting all of its customers know about the slower speeds a couple of months ahead of time that they are being open, honest and transparent with everyone.

In a prepared statement by Kathleen Grillo, who is senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs at Verizon, she said, "The network's capacity remains a shared and limited resource that we must manage to provide the best experience for all of our consumers. And yes, that's even with XLTE and other network initiatives factored in. In response to Wheeler's reference to C Block rules and the FCC's Open Internet Order, Verizon seems confident that everything it is doing is perfectly legal and already permitted under current law. Our customers continue to be free to go where they want on the internet and to use the applications, services and devices of their choice."

One question that this brings up for me is “are you no longer getting what you paid for?” The cost for people who pay for unlimited data usage is higher than for customers who have limited plans. Yet if you fall into the criteria listed above the customer paying less will be able to download whatever they want at faster speeds. Instead of getting what you paid for, this seems more like you are getting what you paid for, but it will take a lot longer.

Verizon does make mention that any throttling will immediately stop when demand on a strained cell site returns to normal. Verizon’s statement reads, "Our practice is a measured and fair step to ensure, that this small group of customers, do not disadvantage all others in the sharing of network resources during times of high demand."

Since Verizon’s response is, in fact, that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have already implemented some form of data throttling that it is OK for them to also do it another question is raised for me what else will fall into this category? 

Edited by Adam Brandt

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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