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FCC Sends Out Letters Asking Carriers to Explain Data Throttling Policies

August 9, 2014 - Written By Ray Greer

The FCC has been trying to crack down when it comes to quality services and competition in the US market. One such example is FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and a letter he sent out to all of the large US wireless carriers. This letter was sent out because some recent data throttling policy changes made by Verizon has Wheeler concerned. The question on Wheeler’s mind seems to be are wireless carriers throttling speeds due to business relationships or due to network challenges?

Wheeler’s interest was piqued when last month Verizon announced some changes to their data policy. Verizon announced that the top 5 percent of their high speed data users who are still using plans from years ago may start to experience slower data speeds. What’s interesting is these users are paying less for unlimited data that Verizon has raised the prices on, but since they had the plans from years ago, they get to keep their old pricing. After this announcement, Wheeler sent a letter to Verizon where he expressed his concerns and used the words “deeply troubled”. What was interesting was how Verizon decided to respond to this letter.

Verizon has responded to the letter saying that this slowing of data speeds is something that is “widely accepted” amongst carriers in the US. Verizon claims this is to manage their networks properly, and even mentioned that other carriers are doing the same thing in order to unclog the top tier of data users. Wheeler responded Friday, “‘All the kids do it’ was never something that worked for me when I was growing up,” Wheeler continued to explain to reporters, “My concern in this instance- and it’s not just Verizon, by the way, we’ve written to all the carriers- is that it (network management) is moving from a technology and engineering issue to the business issues…such as choosing between different subscribers based on your economic relationship with them.”

Sprint and T-Mobile have both commented on the matter, but AT&T has remained silent thus far. Sprint’s response was made by a Sprint Corp spokeswoman who said, Sprint “goes to great lengths to be transparent about its network management practices,” She continued to say that Sprint plans on responding to Wheeler’s letter as asked.

A Spokeswoman for T-Mobile USA said, “Our network practices are consistent with the Commission’s rules on the open Internet, are innovative and are good for consumers and competition.”

Meanwhile, the FCC is still working out new laws and debating if these rules should be more strict for wireless providers. They hope to solve any issue that could arise thanks to the new “net neutrality” rules. The FCC has not released the letters that have been sent out to the carriers. Although they have mentioned that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile only received letters after Verizon responded to their letter.