The US Federal Communications Commission announced plans on Wednesday to fine AT&T $100 million for unsuitable throttling practices. The Commission issued a press release on its website this morning proclaiming the decision, charging the carrier with violating the ‘2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule.’
The move comes as the result of an in-depth investigation, where the FCC found that AT&T—the second largest wireless provider in the US—had not adequately informed its customers with unlimited data plans that it would be dramatically slowing down their Internet access once they crossed a particular threshold.
In 2011, AT&T began throttling Internet speeds of unlimited data customers as part of its ‘Maximum Bit Rate’ initiative, after they used a set amount of data within a billing cycle. The capped speeds were far slower than those AT&T advertised for its network, significantly impairing users’ Internet-connected devices.
“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in today’s press release. “Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure.”
It was reported in May that AT&T had begun to pull back on the throttling of unlimited LTE customers, following a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission seeking refunds for millions of customers. And AT&T isn’t alone here, both the FCC and FTC have criticized all 4 major US carriers over throttling practices.
Update: AT&T has responded to the FCC’s decision:
“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.”