Sprint takes Proactive Approach to Net Neutrality, Stops Throttling Heavy Users

by Matt Klassen on June 19, 2015

The latest iteration of the Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality regulations has now officially come into effect, and the Commission wasted no time in bringing to bear the full weight of its newfound authority against AT&T for misleading unlimited data customers about throttling their data use, levying a $100 million fine against Ma Bell for something we’ve all known the company has been doing for years now.

While that news only broke this week, you can bet rumours about it were already circulating around the wireless water cooler, likely prompting Sprint’s proactive steps last week to end its own throttling practices.

America’s third largest wireless carrier announced ahead of the official introduction of Net Neutrality that it would end its current network management practice of slowing the connection speeds of the heaviest users, and although Sprint has maintained that its throttling likely would have been allowed under the current rules, sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Sprint doesn’t expect users to notice any significant difference in their services now that we no longer engage in the process,” a Sprint spokesman said, and although Sprint had previously retained the right to prioritize wireless traffic according to a subscriber’s data plan, it has never actually done so and noted that it has now rescinded that right and terminated that policy.

As the company said in a statement to tech site CNET:

For less than a year, Sprint used a network management practice that applied only at the level of individual congested cell sites, and only for as long as congestion existed. At such sites, we temporarily allocated resources away from the top 5 percent of heaviest users and to the 95 percent of users with normal usage, to try to allocate the effects of congestion more fairly. Once congestion at the site passed, the limitation automatically ended. Upon review, and to ensure that our practices are consistent with the FCC’s net neutrality rules, we determined that the network management technique was not needed to ensure a quality experience for the majority of customers.

The debate around throttling or otherwise controlling or altering data delivery speeds has been a controversial topic for several years now, with carriers stating that such network management practices are essential for maintaining consistent network performance and only impact the most gluttonous of data hogs. Critics, of course, has replied that such tactics are often arbitrary (who exactly is a data hog?), misleading (particularly in reference to “unlimited” data plans), and discriminatory. The FCC, as we’ve already seen, has decided to side with the critics.

The problem is, of course, that due to their own ineptitude and wireless resource mismanagement throttling, carriers have come to depend on throttling as a necessary tool to manage their wireless networks, meaning without such a tool the customer experience across the board could suffer, in the short term at least, and the FCC’s goal of creating a better, more fair wireless experience would be, for the time being, a failure. No one ever said the road to freedom would be free of potholes.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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