Verizon Wireless store (interior 001)

Last week Verizon announced a new ‘network optimization’ initiative to start throttling data users. Beginning in October, the carrier is going to start slowing the speeds of the top 5% of its unlimited LTE customers when they’re connected to a busy cell site.

Obviously, VZW subscribers weren’t very happy with the news, and apparently neither was the FCC. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler sent a letter to Verizon today saying that he was “deeply troubled” by its new throttling plans…

Here’s a clip from the letter (via GigaOM):

I am deeply troubled by your July 25, 2014 announcement that Verizon Wireless intends to slow down some customers’ data speeds on your 4G LTE network starting in October 2014 .Your website explained that this was an extension of your “Network Optimization” policy, which, according to your website, applies only to customers with unlimited data plans. […]

“Reasonable network management” concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams. 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 also asks that Verizon answer the following:

  • What is your rationale for treating customers differently based on the type of data plan to which they subscribe, rather than network architecture or technological factors? In particular, please explain your statement that, “If you’re on an unlimited data plan and are concerned that you are in the top 5% of data users, you can switch to a usage-based data plan as customers on usage-based plans are not impacted.”
  • Why is Verizon Wireless extending speed reductions from its 3G network to its much more efficient 4G LTE network?
  • How does Verizon Wireless justify this policy consistent with its continuing obligations under the 700 MHz C Block open platform rules, under which Verizon Wireless may not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of end users to download and utilize applications of their choosing on the C Block networks; how can this conduct be justified under the Commission ‘s 2010 Open Internet rules, including the transparency rule that remains in effect?

And here’s Verizon Wireless’ response via The Journal:

“We will officially respond to the Chairman’s letter once we have received and reviewed it,” Verizon Wireless said in a statement. “However, what we announced last week was a highly targeted and very limited network optimization effort, only targeting cell cites experiencing high demand. The purpose is to ensure there is capacity for everyone in those limited circumstances, and that high users don’t limit capacity for others.”

Again, this will only affect the top 5% of LTE users—using 4.7GB or more per month—that are still on unlimited data plans, and only when their cell site is experiencing peak usage. Users who don’t want to be throttled can switch to a new usage-based plan.

For what it’s worth, Verizon has been throttling heavy 3G users on unlimited plans for a while now, and other carriers have similar policies in place for their LTE networks. It’ll be interesting to see how Verizon responds to Wheeler, and how this all plays out.

  • Foellarbear

    I’m glad the FCC is standing up and their is a large VZW subscription base that is very unset with the move. Hopefully VZW changes their minds on this move… Fingers crossed!

  • Antzboogie

    Great I have an unlimited plan that is limited!?! Thats what I have been saying for years. I hope this can be set straight once and for all. Wheeler I hope you not just acting and are going to do it right and not let us get bullied on this one!!

    • White Michael Jackson

      A dripping faucet can still fill the sink.

      • Dani Hayes

        Water does evaporate.

      • White Michael Jackson

        It also turns into ice if cold.

      • Dani Hayes

        It is also the essence of life that everyone needs.

  • Adam

    I’m no longer on a VZ unlimited data plan so I admit I care much less about this announcement than I would have a year ago. And if I still had an unlimited data plan I’d probably be tearing through data at a much faster clip than my current 2-3 gb usage per month. However, now that I am on the other side of the fence it seems fair. The highest users, on what has now been deemed by most carriers to be an unsustainable business model as consumers continue to use more and more data, get throttled at the busiest cell sites to allow for better service for all. Makes sense, but who monitors who this 5% is and what stops VZ from extending this to 10% or 20% without anyone really knowing.

    • Antzboogie

      Sorry it is not reasonable as an individual I am not using enough data to feel like I have to be slowed down. I paid the same as everyone else.

      • Adam

        Do you use more than 4.7 gb of data a month?

      • Antzboogie

        Unlimited is unlimited. Not read the fine print.

      • Adam

        You are still unlimited though, you aren’t getting capped. Assuming VZ keeps their word which I admit is hard to put your trust in, only your speed is throttled at the busiest cell sites at peak times. This doesn’t seem like that big of deal to me and again I admit I gave up my unlimited data a year ago so I’m not nearly as invested as you in this issue.

      • Rigs101

        I’m unlimited and agree with you it’s only at peak hours and they’ve been saying if you go to a different cell site and it’s not congested your speeds will be back to normal so I really don’t see a problem with this

      • benny001

        You see the word “throttled” is an oxy moron. Verizon is CAPPING customers at some cell sites and they could use this to cap everyone. Then who will know who this 5% is ???

  • M_thoroughbred

    Why only Verizon? Why not AT&T also?

    • Rowan09

      I was going to ask the same thing but I believe Verizon signed some deal when they got the bandwidth for LTE with the FCC. This is the same reason all Verizon LTE phones are unlocked for world usage.

  • Straightshoota

    Wish the FCC would come down in AT&T I have been suffering this bull sh!t for years.

    • Jordan

      Same! Every fricken month I get throttled after 5gb. I have called and bitched so many times at reps. Bc they throttle me so bad that my speeds are .25-.5mb/sec which is pretty much unusable. I pay for unlimited data. It doesn’t say on my plans, that it’s the “Unlimited 4g lte for 5gb then edge plan” yea maybe I’m not capped but they make it so that u can’t use ur phone after 5gbs.

      • Rowan09

        They changed it a couple years back. It’s 5GB LTE and then they throttle you to Edge. It’s nonsense because people that are grandfathered in doesn’t get the unlimited experience they did before.

      • Jordan

        Oh I know! It’s bullshit! I use to not get throttled this bad and now it’s ridiculous, literally I couldn’t stand using my phone and couldn’t use it as it’s intended to be. Hate this shit

      • tycovie

        Which is why I switched to T-mobile & let them pay my early termination fees.

        My post:

        Just go to t-mobile. I gotta say the coverage isn’t what it was when I was with AT&T & most likely not like what Verizon offers. But I gotta say having TRUE unlimited data is far more valuable to me. I think I’m at 22GB strong right now, no throttling, streaming music & movies. & have free Rhapsody subscription service.

        As far as I know T-mobile is making improvements to improve coverage & building penetration.

  • Eli aka Mr. Haha

    As much money as verizon makes off of us, they should have enough to upgrade their towers to help support all the traffic in said networks. It’s about time people started stepping up to put a stop to the ridiculous policies, plans, and overall way Verizon treats its customers

  • JoshuaHulgan

    So you’re throttled if you’re on an unlimited plan using over 4.7Gb during peak usage but not throttled if paying more money for usage-based plan using over 4.7 Gb during peak usage.
    …how can anyone argue that this isn’t a ploy to get more money from unlimited users?

    • JoshuaHulgan

      “Man, our infrastructure can’t handle unlimited customers using this much data at our current $4.2 billions in profit. But it can totally handle the exact same amount of data from usage-based customers at $5-6 billion in profits”
      Makes sense.

  • tycovie

    Just go to t-mobile. I gotta say the coverage isn’t what it was when I was with AT&T & most likely not like what Verizon offers. But I gotta say having TRUE unlimited data is far more valuable to me. I think I’m at 22GB strong right now, no throttling, streaming music & movies. & have free Rhapsody subscription service.

    As far as I know T-mobile is making improvements to improve coverage & building penetration.

  • Mgggb

    Tries to sell people unlimited data plans> Tells them it’s a good deal> people buy plan> mfw it’s actually a good deal> mfw they use the product they paid for> reneges on deal> blames customer for using too much data> forces customer to lesser plan> tfw shekels pile up

  • ridonkulous

    So using 6GB of data on an unlimited plan is somehow different than using 6GB of data on a tiered plan??

  • James Gunaca

    At least the FCC has the balls to point out this is discrimination against certain types of customers (unlimited with excessive usage). “If you are on a tiered data plan you are not affected” in other words, if you are more profitable of a customer we won’t throttle you.