Verizon: New Policy On Data Throttling Adheres to FCC Rules

The Telecommunications Law Resource Center is the most comprehensive reference and news platform for communications law, covering broadcasting, cable, broadband, telephony and wireless;...

By Bryce Baschuk  

Aug. 5 — Verizon Wireless defended a recent change to its data policies as a “narrowly tailored and appropriately targeted practice,” that has been “accepted with little or no controversy,” in a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission.

Last month, Verizon said that it would limit data speeds (also known as throttling) for subscribers who fall within the network's top 5 percent of data users, including some of its “unlimited” 4G LTE subscribers.

The policy shift came under fire the week of July 28 when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler warned Verizon's President Daniel Mead that the company shouldn't use reasonable network management as “a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams,” in a July 30 letter.

The FCC has increased its scrutiny of wireless and wireline network management practices as a part of its ongoing effort to restore the agency's net neutrality rules.

Adheres to FCC Rules

Kathleen Grillo, Verizon's senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs, argued that the FCC had sanctioned similar network management practices in its 2010 open Internet order, according to a letter made public Aug. 5.

Grillo noted that Section 91 of the FCC's 2010 net neutrality rules said it “may be reasonable for a broadband provider to temporarily limit the bandwidth available to individual end users in that neighborhood who are using a substantially disproportionate amount of bandwidth.”

That language affirms that Verizon's network management practices have been “endorsed by the FCC as a narrowly targeted way to ensure a fair allocation of capacity during times of congestion,” Grillo wrote.

The FCC exempted wireless Internet service providers from the order's no-blocking and nondiscrimination rules and is now considering how they will be regulated in the agency's forthcoming net neutrality order.

‘Narrowly Targeted.'

Grillo told the FCC that Verizon's new 4G data policy is limited and helps the company manage congestion on cell towers that experience “unusually high demand,” according to the letter. Verizon noted that the policy only applies:

  •  to particular cell sites experiencing unusually high demand,
  •  for the duration of that high demand, and
  •  to a “very small percentage of customers who are heavy data users and are on plans that don't limit the amount of data they may use during the month without incurring added data charges,” the letter said.
  • “Our goal with our network management optimization policy has always been to manage the shared and finite network resources in a manner that best serves our customers,” Grillo wrote. The new policy “is a narrowly tailored and appropriately targeted practice that does just that.”  

    Common Practice

    Grillo said that other carriers––like AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc.––have also adopted data throttling policies for their heavy users, some of which are less targeted than Verizon's.

    Verizon's policy is “similar to, though in some cases more targeted than, network management practices commonly used throughout the industry,” Grillo said.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Washington at bbaschuk@bna.com

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

    Read Verizon's letter here: http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=sbay-9mpp69.