FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Not happy that Verizon is going to throttle unlimited LTE data plans? You're not alone. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has just sent a letter to Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead criticizing the carrier for the new policy. He's "deeply troubled" by the move, and suggests that the arbitrary slowdowns may be violating the open access rules that Verizon said it would obey back in 2008. The FCC defines "reasonable network management" in terms of technology-related issues (like congestion and security) rather than service plans, Wheeler says. To him, Big Red is abusing a "loophole" in order to boot customers off of unlimited data and wring out more profit -- Mead may have to do a good job defending the decision if he wants to avoid a regulatory fight.

We've reached out to Verizon for its response to the letter, and we'll let you know if it has something to say. With that said, it's no secret that larger US carriers (chiefly AT&T and Verizon) have been doing their utmost to push customers towards more lucrative capped plans. Verizon itself requires that you buy new devices at full price if you want to keep unlimited data; AT&T has been throttling unlimited plans (and occasionally restricting features) for some time.

Mead and company may contend that unlimited users are more likely to choke the network. However, that could be a difficult argument to make when Verizon is targeting only unlimited customers, not capped users who chew up similar amounts of bandwidth. The provider also can't point to the lack of penalties for AT&T's actions, since that carrier didn't agree to open access rules for its LTE frequencies. Unless Verizon can persuade the FCC that throttling is genuinely necessary, it may have to reconsider its strategy.

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