AT&T Chicago store (interior 001)

It’s sad that we’ve grown accustomed to greedy carriers and their unlimited data deals. Not only does unlimited service typically come with lots of strings attached, carriers have dumb excuses ready once folks realize their data speeds are being throttled.

Having decided not to let it slide, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is now taking AT&T to court over what it called “deceptive and unfair data throttling” policy.

As announced on Twitter and via a media release, the FTC’s federal court complaint alleges that the Dallas, Texas headquartered firm in some cases reduced data speeds for unlimited customers by up to 90 percent while failing to explain in clear and concise manner why and when throttling would take place.

“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data,” reads the complaint, “and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise”.

“The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. AT&T’s other sin: the company avoided mentioning throttling to customers who were about to renew their unlimited contracts.

AT&T’s marketing materials, the filing continues, emphasized the ‘unlimited’ amount of data that would be available to consumers who signed up for its unlimited plans.

And once unlimited consumers renewed their contracts, AT&T failed to as much as make a brief mention about data speed reduction, let alone inform customers of its throttling policy.

The carrier began throttling unlimited data customers back in 2011, in some cases after they used as little as 2 gigabytes of data in a billing period.

The “severe” throttling program reduced data speeds between 80 to 90 percent. The FTC claims that AT&T has thus far throttled at least 3.5 million unique customers a total of more than 25 million times.

And when people canceled their contracts after being throttled, AT&T charged them early termination fees, “which typically amount to hundreds of dollars,” the filing reads.

The carrier issued a statement in which it called the FTC’s allegations “baseless” and said it’s “baffling” as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against them.

AT&T, the statement insists, should be allowed to manage its network resources without being sued. AT&T approaches throttling in a way that’s “fully transparent” and ”consistent with the law” and its contracts, the statement reads.

“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” says the carrier. “We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented”.

According to AT&T, its throttling program has affected only about three percent of its customers. And before any customer is affected, “they are also notified by text message”.

Be that as it may, changing the terms of customers’ unlimited data plans while people were still under contract is just plain wrong.

Are you glad that the FTC is taking AT&T to court over this?

[Twitter, FTC]

  • Utrarunner5

    Data Throttling needs to stop. Glad they are getting consequences.

  • Nick DeFrancisco

    YES! I have been a victim of AT&T’s data throttling numerous times. It’s about time someone held them responsible for their deceptive practices. Unlimited means WITHOUT LIMITS, period…

    • therealjjohnson

      i get throttled every month after 5 GB

      Sidenote: I dont trust the amount of data they say ive used.

      • GzyOnline

        I feel the same! There is no accountability for how they assess our data usage.. there’s no way I use 3GBs simply checking my mail, iDownloadblog, Reddit, and Facebook (no videos) in a single day! Apple is on board with implementing neat jailbreak tweaks as native feature of iOS, I’d like to see a data counter added to the status bar or control center or something!?!.. if not Apple then maybe from the carrier.

      • h4nd0fg0d

        Yup, +1. Rite with u hombre.

  • iNeedANameHere

    About time.

  • Antzboogie

    I’m very happy about this big companies trying to deceive its customers what a shame. That’s why people are leaving them and going to
    T-Mobile and others who aren’t trying to play their customers for fools. Unlimited is unlimited exactly what I have been saying for years finally someone is stepping up to challenge them. People need to take it old school and just boycott these bullies.

  • Jordan

    Thank god! Finally they are getting on AT&T for this. I’ve been on att for years and have had there unlimited data and I’m throttled every month! When I’m not I get great speeds but I’m throttled right now and this is what they do to me!

    • Gary32283

      Jailbreakers with tethering installed drove carriers to throttle. Looks like you jailbreak.

      • Rigs101

        I’m jailbroken and on unlimited data plan with verizon don’t tether anymore and I use about 50GB a month I would stop making assumptions like that

      • Jordan

        First thing, I pay may my service every month. Just like any other person for their data. Secondly, how is it okay to say they get to use a hotspot at no extra cost and I don’t, all bc they offered a service and I took advantage of it and they regret offering it. It’s deceptive and it’s not my fault, they need to deal with it and deal with their losses not screw their loyal customers who have been there since it was Cingular!

      • Gary32283

        It’s absolutely not your fault. I agree. I believe carriers throttle because performance of the cell towers more than a money maker. AT&T is probably wondering why it took them this long to get sued. They probably decided they had to throttle and knew they would have to pay for a lawsuit but decided it was worth it for the long term.

      • Jordan

        Yea but now there not just going to have to pay for a lawsuit, bc there gonna get screwed just like verizon and gonna have to stop throttling and take their losses bc ur right they have been caught.

      • blu

        If they throttled top users for a short period due to a busy tower, thats fine, but being throttled for the rest of the month after hitting an arbitrary number is wrong.
        I read Verizon throttles high useage devices when towers are busy, but they go back to regular speed when tower demand drops or you move to another tower. I see no issue with that.
        I hit 5 gigs one month on ATT unlimited, and speeds sucked for a week till my new billing period started.

      • GuyBey0ndC00L

        I can’t agree with that. Remember the FTC is going after AT&T for my than just Throttling. Its just throttling is the main reason.

      • Nate McKelvie

        This has nothing to do with jail breaking. Whether you use a hotspot or not should not matter. When the contract was signed, it said unlimited data. It did not say unlimited data unless you tether or FaceTime. Unlimited data when it was offe was advertised as fully unlimited and that’s the contract the people signed and there should be no reason they can’t get that. But the tethering is not the issue. When att offered unlimited they didn’t foresee the amount of data people would use and once they realized what they did, they tried to go back on their word

      • Hugh Jassol

        Not true. Most people don’t even jailbreak. All my data used to come from watching video like slingplayer etc. Actually, I only started jailbreaking/tethering when they started throttling me and my phone was became useless.

        Since I wasn’t able to watch much video anymore (from phone out onto my mobile tv screen), I started tethering to my iPad so I could at least surf the web on a bigger screen rather than my smaller iPhone screen.

  • Fanboy 

    ABOUT TIME. The second some sort of petition is released where I can sign to support this I’m doing it!

  • Christopher

    I have AT&T unlimited and I’m throttled after going over 2GBs, its a joke

    • Chocolatewe

      wow man, i feel for ya

  • Eikast

    I have UD with Verizon. This is great news 🙂
    Hopefully soon AT&T customers won’t be throttled anymore.

    • Rowan09

      Won’t change that, but it will just mean they will be more transparent and increase the limit before being throttled.

  • James G

    Too little, too late, FTC. This should have happened years ago. I’ve since abandoned AT&T because of this policy and am happily a T-Mobile customer with unlimited & unthrottled LTE data.

    • TwinSon

      My exact same scenario. Was getting throttled on my grandfathered unlimited data plan relentlessly until I finally had enough and switched to T-Mobile.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    seems like karma does exist. yup, i’m a believer now.

  • Dao Sasone

    Haha thats what yal get punk b!tch. Il gladly be parts of a mass lawsuit if any.

  • Manuel Molina

    And the hammer begins to come down from the boss

  • Montgomery Tyler

    I’m so done with AT&T!!!!!

  • Jordan

    Att is full of shit. I’m throttled and I never get a text message saying I’m about to be throttled.

  • Jerry Sanderlin

    about time

  • If only we had true unlimited data in Canada…Wind mobile is a joke.

  • George V

    I am so glad, the way they throttle makes your phone useless on 4G its about time someone steps up

  • Trexx

    I was hoping this was coming after they went after Verizon recently. Somehow they are bandwidth constrained, but can yet magically double 15GB plans to 30GB overnight… doesn’t sound like NW congestion to me.

  • Buzz { Light:Year; }

    That’s why tmobile is for me.

  • GuyBey0ndC00L

    I have my unlimited data plan on AT&T of the BS shared plan. Which still has low to bad data connections. I hope the make them paid.

  • Rahnold

    I made the simple decision to switch when they started throttling my 3G connection before I had even used 2GB of data in a single billing cycle, even though I was on an unlimited data plan.

    Their throttling “calculation” is alleged to be based on the top 10% of data consumers, so at any given time they’re throttling the top 10% of their data consumers, regardless of how much data is in question. It’s region based, so some regions are likely more affected that others. For me, in Southern California, I was shocked to find that 1.8GB of data usage put me in that top 10%.

    The straw that broke the camels back was that I was paying more for my unlimited data plan, than their 2GB data plan cost, yet wasn’t even able to get 2GB worth of data because of this outrageous throttling policy.

    They weren’t willing to do anything, besides pitch me a new data limited (but speed unlimited) plan. I switched to Verizon shortly thereafter and while the grass isn’t greener, at least I know I’m getting what I signed up for.. and that AT&T isn’t getting anymore of my money.

  • Hugh Jassol

    THANK GOODNESS!!!! Such a long time coming.

    Once they throttle you, your phone is near useless. I’ve been on unlimited for 6+ years and its ridiculous how they treat their loyal customers. They deserve to be punished for this practice which when they first started implementing was totally arbitrary without warning, especially from what my original contract stipulated.

  • Elmer

    Finally! I have AT&T and get capped after 2GB. It’s annoying since I use public transportation to get to and from school. I usually like to watch YouTube, Netflix, or listen to Google Play but unless it’s downloaded onto my phone or I’m using wifi my phone is useless.

  • GzyOnline

    I was a victim of AT&T’s network speed throttling while on an Unlimited Data plan.. I ran speedtests and my speed was 0.9 to 0.01 Mbps!, essentially making my iPhone USELESS! I had NO Choice but to call AT&T and leave the beloved ‘grandfathered Unlimited Plan’ for their tiered plan. Yes, AT&T notified us there would be throttling, but reducing speed to 0(zero)!? They never said that. And how convenient that they began throttling at 2GB of used data-which was the limit of their lower tiered plan! They must think their customer’s are complete fools-it was pointless to say they were keeping the unlimited plan since what they’re really doing is forcing us all off. SMdH~!!!

  • GzyOnline

    One BIG problem with these gov’t initiated lawsuits: The SCANDLOUS Corporation pays the Government, not us, the consumers! What do we get? – The Corporation must be more transparent, be subject to random gov’t audits, and we get more paper with our bills in BOLD print making their antics more visible. (examples taken from recent gov’t lawsuit against Marriott hotels for jamming customer’s Wi-Fi hotspots)..
    We need more lawsuits like the one against RedBull-give us free products or some good ol’ greenbacks!!

  • h4nd0fg0d

    Ha, ya. Sweet. They’ve been throttling me monthly. I’d like to throttle their necks.

  • Blake

    Good about time!

  • Idris Hamidzai

    Whats the point in great new phones when you’re being throttled? I try to get the best phone out there and can’t even use it for whats its build for…speed!!!