FTC Vs AT&T Data Throttling Case Dismissed
Recently this week, a United States appeals court has dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s suit against AT&T that accused the latter of deceiving subscribers of the wireless carrier’s unlimited data plans when it throttled their data connection speeds. The FTC had claimed that the second biggest wireless carrier in the US was in violation of the FTC Act. According to the agency, any service that is promoted as an unlimited plan should deliver on the unlimited aspect, and AT&T did not quite deliver on this, as clearly noted by Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the FTC upon the filing of the suit about a couple of years ago.
Throttling is defined as the practice of of slowing down connection speeds when mobile users go beyond a specific usage level. As charged by the FTC, AT&T was guilty of this practice, allegedly throttling at least 3.5 million of its subscribers. The FTC also alleged that the throttling practice has resulted in slowing network connection speeds 80 percent to 90 percent.
As reasoned out by the US appeals court, FTC’s case against AT&T was dismissed because the FTC did not have the proper authority, based on the idea that as a service, wireless broadband was classified as a Title II service, which means that it would fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As part of its 2015 Open Internet order, the FCC had changed the classification of wireless broadband as a Title II service.
The case against AT&T may have been dismissed by the US appeals court, but the major US wireless carrier still faces a fine in the amount of $100 million from the FCC. Back in July of last year, the FCC had found that the mobile operator misled its subscribers with regards to the inclusions of its unlimited data plans. The FCC specifically cited that AT&T was in violation of the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule by not making it explicitly clear to its subscribers that their connection speeds would be throttled. Based on the FCC’s findings, AT&T had slowed down its 4G LTE service for customers who exceeded their allotment of 5 gigabytes of data per month. The wireless carrier allegedly slowed down connection speeds to as slow as 512 kbps, just 5 percent of what AT&T had advertised to customers. Moreover, AT&T had not made any effort to inform its subscribers of the throttling.