FCC asks Verizon, others to explain throttling policies

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Verizon Wireless says it has to slow download speeds of select 4G LTE customers in order to ensure the "optimal wireless experience" for everyone.

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Flickr User Eric Hauser
Flickr User Eric Hauser

"'All the kids do it' was never something that worked for me when I was growing up." Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman

Wheeler confirmed to reporters Aug. 8 that the FCC has already written to Verizon Wireless and the other major wireless carriers to explain how they determine when to throttle, or slow, users' download speeds. Verizon had earlier claimed that throttling is "widely practiced."

Wheeler said the FCC was concerned whether or not Verizon Wireless and the other wireless carriers are using their "economic relationship" with users, rather than a pure engineering concern, to determine who to throttle.

Verizon Wireless, the largest wireless carrier in the U.S., said July 25 that it will begin throttling the download speeds of select 4G LTE customers with unlimited data plans beginning Oct. 1. This will be the first time the wireless carrier has throttled its 4G LTE customers.

Customers who 1) have a 4G LTE smartphone with an unlimited data plan 2) whose download usage puts them in the top 5% of users 3) and who are on month-to-month contracts will be subject to throttling. Throttling will only occur when the user is connected to a wireless tower "experiencing heavy demand."

"Our network optimization policy provides the best path to ensure a continued great wireless experience for all of our customers on the best and largest wireless network in the U.S." Mike Haberman, VP of Technology for Verizon Wireless

Users whose downloads speeds are throttled "may experience slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming," Verizon Wireless said.

Verizon Wireless first began throttling the download speeds of some of its 3G customers in 2011.

Beginning Aug. 17 T-Mobile will also throttle select 4G LTE customers. The wireless carrier told the Washington Post that customers who "[bypass] the default tethering feature or [engage] in peer-to-peer filesharing" will be subject to throttling, though they will be given several warnings before the throttling is implemented.

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