FCC questioning all carriers on throttled data policies

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It turns out, Verizon’s plans for “network optimization” for a small fraction of its subscribers has apparently not just worked up the FCC in regards to Big Red, but all of the major wireless carriers in the United States, according to a new report.

Reuters has published a story on August 8 that outlines the displeasure that the FCC has expressed not only towards Verizon, but towards all of the major wireless networks in the U.S. based on their policies in place for throttling customers’ data, and not just for unlimited data subscribers.

This all started with Verizon announcing that the carrier would begin network optimizations for some of its subscribers, specifically those who were not only still under the network’s grandfathered unlimited plans, but who have also fulfilled their contracts obligations, and use quite a few gigabytes of data every month. As a result, the FCC wrote a letter to Big Red, outlining their unease towards the plan. On August 4, Verizon officially replied to the FCC, saying that their plans are not only perfectly legal, but essentially whittling it down to the age-old argument: “everyone else is doing it.”

So, the FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has penned a letter to all of the major wireless carriers, asking them the details of their rules and policies in place that determine when, exactly, they feel it’s okay to throttle their subscribers:

My concern in this instance – and it’s not just with Verizon, by the way, we’ve written to all the carriers – is that it 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.

Unfortunately, the FCC has not shared the letters that it sent to the other carriers, but according to an FCC spokesperson, the letters were similar to the one that the entity sent to Verizon. Specifically, the FCC has asked the other carriers specific questions regarding their policies, essentially trying to figure out the rationale behind these rules.

Of course, most people know that the carriers have had these policies in place for quite some time, and they are certainly not new or far from routine. Sprint and T-Mobile still offer unlimited data plans, but the latter offers only so much speed up to a certain amount of gigabytes used per month. So while it’s still unlimited, they’re speeds can indeed be throttled if they reach a certain amount of data every month.

It will be interesting to see what happens next, as this is obviously becoming quite the issue for the carriers and the FCC.

What do you think the carriers should do?

[via Reuters]