Back in August, Verizon turned heads when it said it would begin to use "Network Optimization" for those few customers still on the old unlimited data plans. In layman's terms, it meant that Verizon intended to throttle the speed of the top 5% of unlimited data users on LTE networks, something that's already in place on the carrier's aging 3G system. But today, the very first day that the policy was set to go into practice, the company seems to have backed down.

An official statement given to Droid Life explained in no uncertain terms that Verizon will not be optimizing its LTE traffic for unlimited customers.

We’ve greatly valued the ongoing dialogue over the past several months concerning network optimization and we’ve decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans. Exceptional network service will always be our priority and we remain committed to working closely with industry stakeholders to manage broadband issues so that American consumers get the world-class mobile service they expect and value.

I happen to be a grandfathered unlimited data customer on Verizon, and since I rely on my paid data tether to do my job in my isolated rural area, I certainly fall into that top 5% bracket. While I had some serious connection issues in late September (a test of the planned system, perhaps?) today my LTE speed is as fast as it's ever been - which is a good thing if you like reading Android Police articles.

unlimited cosmic power

Verizon didn't say exactly what made the company change its plans, unless you count a brief mention of the "ongoing dialogue." I seriously doubt that the vocal minority of unlimited users changed any executive minds, since Verizon has incentivized those customers to switch to standard tiered data in the past. Unless some technical hurdle has caused the company to pull a complete 180, I'm guessing that increased scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission may have had a lot to do with it.

After Verizon announced its intent to throttle some unlimited data users, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler (who is a telecom veteran himself) asked the company to explain its need to take those steps in a strongly-worded open letter.

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 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.

The Washington Post reports that Verizon's response to Wheeler was basically a big giant "nuh uh." The company failed to address his complaint that users were going to be given different access to network speeds based on what they were paying, despite the mobile data plan's pay structure referring to the amount of data, not the speed.

The FCC has expressly endorsed the type of targeted congestion management practice that we employ as a form or reasonable network management... Providers throughout the industry have employed similar (and often less tailored) versions of this same practice.

The Commission couldn't stop Verizon from throttling unlimited users on LTE, at least not initially - they certainly would have put some kind of action in motion if they could. But considering how few remaining unlimited customers Verizon has, at least in relation to the amount of total subscribers, I'm betting that the company didn't want to butt heads with the FCC just for the chance to incentivize a few "data hogs" to pay up or move to other carriers. After all, they'll have to go through the FCC to secure any more spectrum for future network enhancements.

Most of the above is speculation on my part. As the kids say, tl;dr: Verizon won't throttle your unlimited LTE data if you use too much, at least for the time being.

Source: Droid Life; The Washington Post; Scribd via Engadget