Verizon Realizes Throttling LTE Users Is A Stupid, Stupid Idea; Decides Not To

Back in July, Verizon Wireless ticked off its few remaining unlimited data subscribers and caught the unwanted attention of the FCC Chairman, when it announced that it would begin throttling data speeds for its users with the highest level of wireless broadband consumption under the guise of “network optimization.” That plan was supposed to kick in this morning, but Verizon has decided that maybe it’s not such a good idea.

“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,” reads a statement from Verizon.

VZW has been using “network optimization” since 2011 for 3G data users, slowing down data speeds for the heaviest users when they are connected to cell sites experiencing high demand.

Until the July announcement, the company had never expanded this throttling program to 4G LTE users, even after killing off unlimited plans in 2012. The decision to include these users caught the attention of FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, who wrote to Verizon to explain that he was “deeply troubled” by Verizon’s plan.

Of particular concern to Wheeler was Verizon’s claim that the throttling was acceptable under current FCC guidelines for “reasonable network management practices.”

Wheeler explained that network management must be “appropriate and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service” and that it is “not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams.”

The Chair said it was “disturbing… that Verizon Wireless would base its ‘network management’ on distinctions among its customers’ data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.”

Verizon responded by claiming that it wasn’t attempting to drive the remaining unlimited customers on to tiered data plans by throttling their data speeds when they actually tried to access the “unlimited” data promised by their plans.

The company explained that they weren’t targeting unlimited customers; those users just happen to be data hogs.

“Unlike subscribers on usage-based plans, they have no incentive not to do so during times of unusually high demand,” wrote Verizon. “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.”

Verizon also pointed out that other major carriers have similar policies, a response that failed to impress Wheeler.

“‘All the kids do it’ was never something that worked with me when I was growing up and didn’t work with my kids,” he said about Verizon’s excuse.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.