(Adds links to FACTBOX, TAKE-A-LOOK)
By Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON, July 30 The top U.S.
telecommunications regulator said on Wednesday he is "deeply
troubled" by Verizon Communications Inc's plan to slow
data downloads for some high-speed wireless customers remaining
on the older unlimited data plans.
Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, stopped offering
unlimited data plans in 2012 and last week said it will begin
slowing services for the top 5 percent of data users who are on
such data plans in places where the network is experiencing high
The policy is already in effect for unlimited subscribers on
the 3G network but would now be expanded to the higher-speed 4G
But Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler
raised concerns about the plan on Wednesday.
"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," Wheeler
wrote in a letter to Verizon Wireless President and CEO Daniel
Mead released by the FCC.
"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. ... 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."
A Verizon Wireless spokesman said the company's officials
will officially respond to Wheeler's letter once they have
received and reviewed it.
"What we announced last week was a highly targeted and very
limited network optimization effort, only targeting cell sites
experiencing high demand," the spokesman said. "The purpose is
to ensure there is capacity for everyone in those limited
circumstances, and that high users don't limit capacity for
Although No. 3 and No. 4 carriers Sprint Corp and
T-Mobile US Inc continue to offer some versions of
unlimited data plans to new subscribers, U.S. wireless carriers
have been working to shift their increasingly data-hungry
subscribers onto tiered pricing plans, which charge customers
for specific amounts of data they agree to consume.
For Wheeler, the letter represented another push against an
Internet service provider (ISP) as he seeks to establish himself
as a strong defender of web users' interests who would punish
ISPs whose business practices may hurt consumers or competition.
His efforts follow the FCC's controversial proposal of new
"net neutrality" rules that guide how broadband providers manage
web traffic on their networks, which has drawn fire from
consumer advocates, the public and some Internet companies.
In Wednesday's letter, Wheeler also posed to Mead several
questions about the plan, including the rationale to treat
consumers differently depending on their data plans, the reasons
behind extending speed reduction from the slower-speed 3G
network to the more efficient high-speed 4G LTE network, and how
Verizon would justify the plan under its current regulatory
obligations, including those meant to protect "net neutrality."
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and