back to article Verizon to FCC: What ya looking at? Everyone throttles internet traffic

Verizon is hitting back at the FCC's criticism over plans to throttle bandwidth hogs' download speeds. The US telco said in a letter [PDF], obtained by The Register, to the American watchdog's commissioner Tom Wheeler that its plan to limit data speeds at times of heavy use was not only legal – but a commonly used tactic for …

  1. Ashton Black

    As long as...

    1) No "Unlimited" plans, unless it is indeed unlimited and yes, throttling does count, not just a hard cap on data use, since that is the measure they're using to decide who is to be throttled.

    2) Give some indication to users where the demarcation line is. Saying 'Top 5%' is fine, but how much is that? I assume it depends on traffic in a given time period on a given cell, but if that changes over time, How does the user know when he/she is reaching that arbitrary line?

    3) Seems unfair that a user could use a given amount of bandwidth in one low contention area, but that bandwidth is throttled if he/she moves into an area of high use, solely based on previous usage, rather than a fair contention.

    Pfff.... They WILL get away with it, and as has been said many times, the FCC has been castrated by years of telco (and others, to be fair) lobbying.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As long as...

      If the FCC says no, they can either throttle all 4G customers equally, or tell everyone on a grandfathered unlimited plan that they'll be transitioned to a limited plan as X date.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: As long as...

        Throttling equally is known as "bandwidth management by contention"

        Priority queuing would work just as well, but the fundamental problem in the USA is that many years of telco lobbying has gutted competition in the ISP space, so there's noone else that clients can go to.

    2. SoaG

      Re: As long as...

      "'Top 5%' is fine"

      No, actually, it's not (and no I'm not one of them.)

      This years top 5% usage is next year's average usage. It's their best indication of how much infrastructure they need to be installing.

      Kneecapping the leading edge today leads directly to greater and ever increasing congestion tomorrow. Retransmissions caused by packet collisions count towards billable data overage.

      It's not about making 5% pay today, it's about making 95% pay next year.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As long as...

        > This years top 5% usage is next year's average usage. It's their best indication of how much infrastructure they need to be installing.

        You are absolutely correct on this.

        But, try explaining it to an idiot CEO who views infrastructure investments as a cost center.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "everybody does it"

    This is exactly what Time Warner/Brighthouse said when I complained about their DNS servers never returning "no such host" and redirecting me to an ad page.

    It caused samba to crap out because it tried DNS resolution before WINS resolution, and thus always got a bullshit answer.

    I filed an FCC complaint and Time Warner/Brighthouse threatened to drop me.

    This is a direct result of no competition. At least with my cellphone I was able to leave Verizon and go to T-Mobile.

    1. Tom 35

      Re: "everybody does it"

      But Mom, Billy did it too...

  3. David Austin


    This is not hard.

    Oxford English dictionary has this to say on Unlimited:

    unˈlimited, adj.

    Etymology: un- prefix1 8.

    1. Not limited or restricted in amount, extent, or degree:

    So: Either stop making a rod for your own back by selling "Unlimited Internet", then getting all pissy when people actually use it, or put your money where your mouth is and actually provide the service you're advertising

    I'd like to think most reasonable people - especially tecchies - understand about the contention issues at play here, and don't take massive issue with "entry level" broadband having a sensible limit (No BT, 20GB cap on a fibre line does not count as sensible), with people wanting to go over that paying for the next tier up.

    Where I think we are right to call bullshit is is when ISP's start putting on fair usage policies, bandwidth throttling, traffic shaping, "Top x% of users" and artificial slowdowns, all so their marketing men can go "Hey Unlimited* Broadband's here!"

    1. David Austin

      Re: Unlimited

      * It really, really isn't.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Unlimited

        And why hasn't this been challenged on the basis of false advertising (and I'm of the opinion that ANY advertisement should contain nothing but the truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING BUT the truth)?

        Put this way, since trunk Internet access is always metered, it would be considered fiscally unsound, and therefore unreasonable, to offer consumer Internet service that is actually unlimited (since in the long run that would be a money sink). Therefore, advertising unlimited Internet of any kind should be considered illegal false advertising.

  4. Denarius

    what are limits to all you can download offers ?

    With something like bandwidth where demand grows as it is made available how can a provider not throttle occasionally ? QOS requires this. Therefore advertising unlimited downloads should be considered false advertising.

  5. Zack Mollusc

    Ok with me

    I am totally fine with an ISP throttling my data connection, just so long as I am granted the reciprocal right to throttle the payments if I judge that am experiencing high cash contention at the time it arrives.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Perfectly right, this street should absolutely go both ways.

      The given tariff is for a certain bandwidth, say 10mbps. So my monthly payment is for 24/7 access at that bandwidth. Any time my bandwidth drops for any reason, my monthly payment should drop by the proportional amount of bandwidth I have lost.

      So if my connection drops to 2mbps every evening for 4 hours, that means that 4 out of 24 hours I am losing 80% of my bandwidth. So, I should have 24 hours at 10mbps, meaning 240mbps total, but I have 200+8 = 208mbps instead, meaning 86.7% of my so-called unlimited bandwidth.

      Therefor I should pay 86.7% of the agreed price.

      Maybe that would incite telcos to go and lay more fiber to ensure 100% availability.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        The problem there is what happens if the Telco increases capacity as happened to me, some new

        cable & upgraded modem firmware bumped my long line from 2Mbit/s to 3Mbit/s. Would I have been happy to have my bill increased by 50%? It goes both ways.

        Asking Telcos to bill by use would be a big step backwards, it took a long time to get to flat rate pricing, and I'd rather have capped flat-rate than per MB/GB/etc.

        Agreed, of course, that if they offer unlimited it should be unlimited, but the only way to stop that is for the FCC/Ofcom/etc. to really clamp down. No ISP is going to be the first to remove "unlimited" tariffs if their competitors still offer them, no matter how non-unlimited they may actually be.

  6. rikerisle

    the fair way..

    If bandwidth is throttled to a given standard that's ok. If a plan is capped that's ok. Throttling based on plan usage is not. Throttling and capping are two different things. Throttling my bandwidth when bandwidth is available just because I downloaded 80GB during off-peak periods is plain wrong.

    1. Tom 35

      Re: the fair way..

      I disagree. As long as it's clear and predictable it's ok. At least if you have a choice. My cell provider gives me just what you call plain wrong.

      I get 5 GB data, if I go over I might be throttled. But I will not have to pay extra.

      The big three in Canada are still back in the days of small cap, stupid per MB charge if you go over.

      What is plain wrong is saying they will throttle you based on unknown criteria so that they might as well say "if we feel like it".

  7. steve 124

    nothing up my sleeve... hey look over there!

    This is nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to misdirect the conversation away from "fast lanes". Everyone knows that when congestion is high, bandwidth gets throttled (it's the very nature of "limited resources") but these ISPs are just using this argument to get people warmed up to the idea of throttling at the ISP's discretion and in that lays the problem. The type of throttling being discussed here is completely different from taking bandwidth from everyone and giving the leftover to whoever pays you the most (ie. Netflix or youtube).

    Congestion based throttling is not something we should even have to talk about, it's going to happen, it does happen and it's been happening (usually automatically by the routers and switches when packet loss to do line saturation is detected). The throttling we need to be discussing is the schoolyard bully type Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner and every other US ISP is chomping at right now: "give me money or I'll beat up your bandwidth".

    Meanwhile, while they talk about bandwidth concerns, I've been seeing advertisements on TV for XLTE (30 times faster)... how are they able to offer that if bandwidth is a concern? My LTE 4G is hitting around 20Mb/s so that means this XLTE would be something like 600Mb/s.

    Maybe Mrs. Grillo would like to comment on this product? I mean you're telling us there's not enough backbone bandwidth, but then advertising that you have 30 times as much as we're using now? I'm no math major but something doesn't add up here.

  8. dubious

    guaranteed minimum connection

    They can put some of the blame on the marketing people for this 'unlimited' perception problem.

    What they should have been selling were connections with guaranteed minimums rather than lines with some mythical "upto" speed. I'd wager many people would rather have a steady 5Mbps that freely bursts up towards the exchange backhaul's maximum when possible, over a "25Mbps" line that hops along at 3Mbps during "peak times" (on a good day with a fair wind). It's almost like persistent peak congestion is a complete surprise to them.

    I understand where the telcos are coming from and that consumer Internet access has always been pretty highly contended, but Internet is now highly profitable, so cut the excuses.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: guaranteed minimum connection

      I think part of the problem is that "guaranteed minimum" speeds would probably looked at with a sneer. IOW, they'd be trusted less than the "unlimited" claims. Let's face it; customers at this point are jaded. It's making the marketing department rather nervous, as they're running out of ways to entice the customers since the same-old stops working after a while. Meanwhile, accounting pushed back by reminding them that the uplinks costs are metered. I see it like this: how do you make a satisfactory sweet dish for a person who has no sweet spot in their tastebuds?

    2. Down not across

      Re: guaranteed minimum connection

      What they should have been selling were connections with guaranteed minimums rather than lines with some mythical "upto" speed.

      No ISP is likely to offer guaranteed minimum anytime soon. Linespeed (or the equivalent) is too dependent on conditions. That means that for fixed line (assuming DSL here) each customer would have to have "its own product" depending on what speed their line supports. With wireless it would be even worse since the connection parameters would constantly fluctuate.

      The "up to", frustrating as it is to customer, makes sense for an ISP as a single product that can be sold. Having said the ISPs could (not that they ever would) price the "up to" product with "up to" price that matches the line speed and thus if you're at end of a wet string you would pay less.

  9. keith_w

    Reading the last few posts, I get the impression that these people are talking about having their home internet access throttled and other issues whereas the article was talking about issues with cellular access.

    1. Charles 9

      The issue applies to BOTH wired and wireless, though wireless gets hit with this problem harder than wired due to the physical limits of spectrum. The problem is that customers are expecting completely unlimited Internet access, no strings attached, but accounting and physics make fulfilling that exact demand infeasible. So what do you do when the customer expects nothing less while it's impossible for you or anyone else to deliver anything close?

  10. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Well, I have an unlimited plan. Here's the info I've gathered on all this...

    1) VZW does give an actual number. The say "top 5%" cutoff is currently 4.7GB. They don't specify the throttle speed because they don't have one.... these users will not be throttled to xKB/second on busy sites, they plan to allocate them some percentage of the channel while everyone else gets the rest, so the speed would vary depending on how many throttled users were on the site. Once this kicks in people will I suppose report real-world speeds from this.

    2) People were thinking the FCC's objection is due to specifically rules on the 700mhz C block that Verizon bought (introduced by Google) barring discriminatory network practices. However, this seems to really bar throttling *specific* services (i.e. if they were throttling streaming video or whatever) rather than barring throttling based on total useage. Now it seems (just in the last day or so) that the FCC is leaning on Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T about throttling practices as well, though, so this may not even be related to the C block provisions.

    3) Personally I don't see the big problem. I'm paying $30/month for unlimited. VZW has a "promotional" 6GB for $30 ($5/GB) to try to get people off unlimited. Most plans running $7.50 to $10/GB, with the minimum being $30 for 2GB (nothing less available for someone who just wants to use wifi), plus about $40-50 of voice/text costs for unlimited voice and text (they don't give you a choice of getting less any more). Oh, ranging up to apparently 30GB for $300 or 50GB for $375 (plus voice plan). Ouch. I just don't see the issue of people paying this kind of price for each and every GB getting a little priority over someone like me grandfathered into a low flat rate.

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