Under FCC Pressure, Verizon Says 'No' to Throttling, After All

Changing course, Verizon said it won't move to throttle back data speeds for its most data-hungry customers once they get to certain levels of consumption.

Verizon data speed throttling

Verizon has given up on its plans to throttle back data speeds on its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network for customers who are its biggest data-consuming users, reversing an earlier decision that the company had unveiled. The move had been planned to start this month

The company's change of heart about data-speed throttling was announced in a statement emailed to eWEEK on Oct. 2 by a company spokeswoman.

"Verizon is committed to providing its customers with an unparalleled mobile network experience," the statement said. "At a time of ever-increasing mobile broadband data usage, we not only take pride in the way we manage our network resources, but also take seriously our responsibility to deliver exceptional mobile service to every customer. We've greatly valued the ongoing dialogue over the past several months concerning network optimization and we've decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans."

Much of the criticism for Verizon's original throttling plans came from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, who called the proposed change "disturbing" in a July letter to the company, according to an Oct. 1 story by The Wall Street Journal. The throttling would have only been aimed at customers who still have unlimited data plans that are grandfathered in, since the company no longer offers unlimited data plans, The Journal reported.

The FCC did not respond to an eWEEK inquiry on Oct. 2 seeking additional comment on the throttling issue.

In his earlier letter to Verizon on the topic, Wheeler said the company's proposed policy appeared to be aimed at moving remaining unlimited plan customers from those plans in favor of higher-priced plans that would bring more revenue to Verizon, The Journal reported. "'Reasonable network management' concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams," Wheeler wrote in his July letter, the paper reported.

After hearing of Verizon's decision to drop the throttling plans, Wheeler issued a statement applauding the move, The Journal reported. "This is a responsible action and I commend Verizon's leadership on this issue," Wheeler said.

Michael Weinberg, a vice president for the Washington-based non-profit digital rights advocacy group, Public Knowledge, told eWEEK that his organization is pleased with Verizon's decision to drop the throttling proposal.

"It's great," Weinberg said. "We actually had begun the process of filing an open Internet complaint when they proposed that," due to concerns about such a policy.

One thing Verizon has not been willing to discuss publicly during the controversy is just how many of the company's customers would have been affected by the proposed throttling, said Weinberg. "We've been unable to verify that," he said.

In a related matter, in September, the FCC received a record 3 million comments about proposed rules for net neutrality that could help define the Internet into the future for Internet service providers (ISPs), according to a recent eWEEK report. Those proposed FCC rules garnered lots of comments because they included a controversial proposal that would allow content companies to push some content faster to consumers for an extra fee, rather than providing the same service to all users. In May, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of looking at the idea. The proposal, however, wouldn't allow throttling, or the purposeful slowdown of any type of traffic, as the Verizon proposal would have permitted.

Throttling proposals by cellular phone companies and others, including cable providers, have certainly come up in the past, including in 2012 when AT&T was under the throttling magnifying glass.