Verizon Won't ‘Optimize’ Net for Unlimited Plans

Verizon Wireless signaled Wednesday (Oct. 1) that it would not proceed with plans to "optimize" its network for customers with unlimited plans by managing speeds of the top 5% of data users with unlimited plans at peak periods.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told Verizon Wireless in a July letter that he was concerned about its plans to "slow down customers' data speeds on its 4G LTE network starting in October. 'Reasonable network management' concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams," he said.

Wheeler has signaled that he doesn't think it is reasonable network management for consumers not to get the speeds they are paying for.

Verizon has responded by dropping the plan.

"Verizon is committed to providing its customers with an unparalleled mobile network experience," said Verizon spokesman Richard Young. "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 have decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans. Exceptional network service will always be our priority and we remain committed to working closely with industry stakeholders to manage broadband issues so that American consumers get the world-class mobile service they expect and value."

Wheeler was pleased. “I salute Verizon Wireless’s decision. This is a responsible action and I commend Verizon’s leadership on this issue.”

On July 23, the FCC released an enforcement advisory reminding broadband providers of their responsibilities under the transparency rule, the only Open Internet order rule that survived intact after court review.

"Consumers rightly expect to receive the Internet access that they have been promised by their service providers," said acting Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc in a statement accompanying that advisory. "We are committed to holding broadband Internet providers accountable if they fail to deliver on the commercial promises they make to the American people."

Lat month, Wheeler sent letters to the other three Big Four wireless carriers asking about their network management practices, what is reasonable management, and expressing concerns similar to those in a letter to Verizon.

Wheeler has shown he is willing to use the bully pulpit and big stick to effect change.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.