The battle over Internet speeds and net neutrality continues to rage, with service providers such as Verizon on one side, and consumers and content providers such as Netflix on the other. But on July 30, consumers received support from perhaps an unexpected place: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In a letter to Verizon, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler questioned part of Verizon’s plan to cap speeds for heavy data users during times of high demand. In the letter, Wheeler questioned why Verizon’s current plan only applies to customers on an unlimited data plan.
“I am deeply troubled by your July 25, 2014 announcement that Verizon Wireless intends to slow down some customers' data speeds on your 4G LTE network starting in October 2014,” the letter opens. Wheeler later adds, “‘Reasonable network management’ concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams. It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its 'network management' on distinctions among its consumers' data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.”
Recently, many network carriers, including Verizon, have turned away from unlimited data plans in favor of data caps or usage-based pricing. However, Verizon has also agreed to grandfather in customers who previously held unlimited plans. In the letter, Wheeler said that this move could unfairly steer customers from the unlimited plans they have held for so long, forcing them to select data caps in order to maintain Internet speed.
“I know of no past Commission statement that would treat as ‘reasonable network management’ a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for ‘unlimited’ service,” Wheeler said.
The FCC is still currently devising rules concerning how network providers can manage data on their networks. Although many technology companies have called for net neutrality — the idea of an equal Internet for all — Verizon and other providers seek the ability to make deals and provide some companies with a speedier service.