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Verizon Wireless told federal regulators Monday that the company isn’t doing anything wrong under its new plan to slow network speeds for its heaviest data users during peak periods, arguing that other carriers are doing the same thing.

“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 during times of high demand,” Verizon wrote in a response to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who raised concerns about Verizon’s plan last week and demanded more information about it.

“It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its ‘network management’ on distinctions among its customers’ data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology,” Wheeler wrote to the company last week.

In its response, Verizon said that it had applied its network management plan to customers on its 3G network three years ago. Under the new policy, 4G LTE customers on older, unlimited data plans would find their speeds throttled back if they are on particular cell sites that are in high demand. The wireless giant argued that its competitors were doing the same thing and helpfully posted links to their network management plans in its letter to the FCC. (See AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.)

Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Daniel S. Mead told reporters in New York that the company was surprised by the FCC’s letter, because the carrier was following the same process it used in 2011 to cope with heavy traffic on its 3G network.

“I don’t think the FCC really understood what we were doing,” said Mead, adding that the policy would result in slower speeds for “a tiny minority” of users who are connected to a cellular tower during times when demand is high.

Earlier this month, Verizon announced plans to begin slowing network speeds for heavy data users starting in October. The change would apply to the approximately five percent of users on Verizon’s 4G LTE network who still have unlimited data plans. The new plan doesn’t apply to government or business customers on unlimited data plans.

An FCC spokeswoman confirmed the agency had received the response and are “carefully reviewing” it.



1 comments
StevePerlman
StevePerlman

If there were no "network architecture or technology" solution, as stated by Wheeler, to accommodating heavy users during peak times, then there might be an argument for why carriers would slow some users down for the benefit of all users.


But there most certainly is. With pCell, there's enough LTE capacity for heavy usage, whether during peak or non-peak times, and the deployment cost is less than that of cellular LTE.

Although this discussion is about normal service situations, consider what this means during a crisis situation, when suddenly far more users than normal make heavy data demands on the LTE network. After the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago,all of the cellular networks were overwhelmed, and there was not a payphone to be found. Cellular's capacity limitation resulted in a communications blackout in the area. 


So, from a public policy standpoint, this not just about heavy users being limited during peak times. It's about having adequate capacity for both normal peak and critical peak situations on the mobile networks that society has come to rely upon for communications.


Perhaps instead of auctioning the limited remaining spectrum based on what companies have the most money to pay for it, we auction it based on which companies commit to deploy technology that maximizes spectral efficiency (i.e. peak capacity). At the end of the day, we just want mobile to work reliably all the time. That should be the number one priority for the FCC.



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