Announced this morning, the FCC is coming down hard, like, really hard on AT&T. For “misleading consumers about unlimited data plans” and “violating transparency obligations,” the FCC is fining AT&T to the tune of $100 million, the single largest fine ever tossed out by the commission. Ouch.
During the period of the FCC’s investigation, it is alleged by the commission that AT&T severely throttled the data speeds of customers with an unlimited data plan. Not only that, but AT&T did not notify customers of what was taking place on the backend. According to the FCC, the slowing down in data speed rendered applications unusable by device owners.
Here is a small excerpt from FCC’s press release announcing the fine for AT&T.
In 2011, AT&T implemented a “Maximum Bit Rate” policy and capped the maximum data speeds for unlimited customers after they used a set amount of data within a billing cycle. The capped speeds were much slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised and significantly impaired the ability of AT&T customers to access the Internet or use data applications for the remainder of the billing cycle.
To sum up the transparency section, the FCC is charging AT&T with violating the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule by “falsely labeling” these data plans as unlimited and by failing to inform customers of what the maximum speed they would see under the carrier’s Maximum Bit Rate policy.
Of course, AT&T came out and announced they will fight these assertions vigorously.
We will vigorously dispute the FCC’s assertions. The FCC has specifically identified this practice as a legitimate and reasonable way to manage network resources for the benefit of all customers, and has known for years that all of the major carriers use it. We have been fully transparent with our customers, providing notice in multiple ways and going well beyond the FCC’s disclosure requirements.
$100 million is a ton of money, even for a major player such as AT&T. But hey, if you attempt to screw the consumer, you best be prepared to pay the price.