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You, Verizon. What's with the download throttle? Explain yourself – FCC boss

Commission wants answers on plan to cap heavy users

Angry woman on mobile

The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is demanding an explanation from Verizon over the carrier's decision to throttle LTE speeds for heavy users.

Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote to Verizon CEO Daniel Mead seeking information about the network's plan to deliberately slow data speeds for the top five per cent of unlimited data users when its systems are experiencing heavy traffic.

In the letter [PDF], obtained by Mashable, Wheeler asks the company to explain the reasoning behind its decision and the technical details behind the policy.

"Reasonable network management concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams," Wheeler writes.

"It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its network management on distinctions among its customers' data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology."

Among the questions Wheeler raises is why Verizon is compelled to extend the data limiting policy from its 3G network to a "much more efficient" LTE 4G network, and why the company is limiting customers based on their data plan rather than other technical factors.

Additionally, Wheeler notes that the policy could run afoul of FCC regulations on networks operating in the 700MHz C Block, a designated spectrum block for open networks where discrimination based on application traffic is not allowed.

"How can this conduct be justified under the Commission's 2010 Open Internet rules, including the transparency rule that remains in effect?" Wheeler asks.

This is not the first time Verizon has found itself on the receiving end of stern words from Wheeler, a mobile industry lobbyist turned FCC head honcho.

The company's public war of words with Netflix over peering deals and allegations of throttling has drawn the attention of the FCC and triggered an investigation, while Verizon's DSL service was among those singled out by Wheeler in June for failing to provide its advertised broadband speeds. ®

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