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Verizon Tells FCC Everyone’s Slowing Down Wireless Data Hogs

Verizon said it has had a similar policy on its 3G network for three years.


Verizon Wireless told federal regulators Monday that the company isn’t doing anything wrong under its new plan to slow network speeds for its heaviest data users during peak periods, arguing that other carriers are doing the same thing.

“Rather than an effort to ‘enhance [our] revenue streams,’ 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,” Verizon wrote in a response to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who raised concerns about Verizon’s plan last week and demanded more information about it.

“It is 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,” Wheeler wrote to the company last week.

In its response, Verizon said that it had applied its network management plan to customers on its 3G network three years ago. Under the new policy, 4G LTE customers on older, unlimited data plans would find their speeds throttled back if they are on particular cell sites that are in high demand. The wireless giant argued that its competitors were doing the same thing and helpfully posted links to their network management plans in its letter to the FCC. (See AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.)

Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Daniel S. Mead told reporters in New York that the company was surprised by the FCC’s letter, because the carrier was following the same process it used in 2011 to cope with heavy traffic on its 3G network.

“I don’t think the FCC really understood what we were doing,” said Mead, adding that the policy would result in slower speeds for “a tiny minority” of users who are connected to a cellular tower during times when demand is high.

Earlier this month, Verizon announced plans to begin slowing network speeds for heavy data users starting in October. The change would apply to the approximately five percent of users on Verizon’s 4G LTE network who still have unlimited data plans. The new plan doesn’t apply to government or business customers on unlimited data plans.

An FCC spokeswoman confirmed the agency had received the response and are “carefully reviewing” it.

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