Verizon Tabs Optimization Tests Reasonable Network Management

Verizon is dismissing net neutrality group characterizations of what it said were common network management tests. 

Public Knowledge had jumped on reports that the wireless ISP was "throttling" video streaming services as part of a video optimization test and had done so without warning to customers.

"Current net neutrality rules clearly state that providers may employ reasonable network management practices to ensure that their networks and services run efficiently and work well for their customers," said a Verizon spokesman. "Video optimization is a non-discriminatory network management practice designed to ensure a high quality customer experience for all customers accessing the shared resources of our wireless network."

He said the company has let customers know about its various network practices, practices common in the industry, adding: "It's not in our interest to do anything to jeopardize the products or services that our customers rely each and every day." 

Public Knowledge pointed out that the FCC staff, in the waning days of chairman Tom Wheeler's tenure, had set out guidelines for reasonable network management, including evaluating video optimization, but that new FCC chairman Ajit Pai had rescinded that report.

"ISPs need to know that tests to improve their system or develop new products won’t be mistaken for by their customers for bad behavior that undermines confidence in the network," said Public Knowledge senior VP Harold Feld. “The guidelines distinguishing ‘throttling’ from ‘reasonable network management’ developed as part of the FCC’s investigation into T-Mobile’s Binge On service provided precisely this certainty....Before, Verizon could simply point to the FCC guidelines to reassure their customers. Today, we must look to Chairman Pai to tell us whether subscribers have anything more to rely on than Verizon’s promises." 

Feld said that was one reason Pai should not try to roll back the Open Internet order or its Title II underpinning.

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.