AT&T doesn’t want to be throttled for throttling customers


It seems AT&T thinks throttling the data speeds of customers without telling them about it isn’t such a big deal. The Federal Trade Commission sued AT&T back in 2014 for “deceptive and unfair data throttling” after the company imposed caps on unlimited data contracts, beyond which it reduced their data speeds by almost 90%. The Federal Communications Commission joined the party last month, fining AT&T $100 million – and The Hill reports that the carrier now wants that fine reduced to just $16,000.

The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” the company wrote in its filing. “Its ‘moderate’ forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.”

The FTC had stated that it could legally have imposed fines of $16,000 per affected consumer, but that would have resulted in an “astronomic” fine, so chose to limit the total penalty to one large enough to deter future violations. AT&T had originally claimed that it was doing nothing wrong, but Ars Technica notes that the company amended its policy in May so that throttling was applied only when the network was congested.

AT&T has not offered unlimited data plans to new customers for some years, but has a small-ish group of customers who remain on grandfathered plans which remain valid for as long as the customer retains the plan.

Apple last month removed subsidies from both AT&T and Verizon iPhones, moving to plans where customers pay the full cost of the phone on an installment plan.

Photo: Re/code

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  1. ultramet - 8 years ago

    And I’m getting tired of their text messages telling me that I have reached 75% of THEIR 5GB artificial threshold-even though I’m supposed to receive unlimited. My usage has gone up because of Apple Music. I don’t remember ever being told by any ATT sales person that my speeds would be subject to throttling. Can I just cancel my contract as that was not in the initial agreement .

    • proudappleuser - 8 years ago

      It was in the agreement in fine print, which you signed. You can, however, cancel a contract is they notify you of a change in terms and conditions that you do not agree with.

  2. proudappleuser - 8 years ago

    That last paragraph is incorrect. You can still get a subsidized plan for Verizon at Apple. It almost never makes financial sense to do it, but you can.

  3. hodar0 - 8 years ago

    I think AT&T misunderstands the quote “Tis better to give, than to receive”

  4. mtitech94 - 8 years ago

    This is why I’m not with AT&T their so greedy

  5. standardpull - 8 years ago

    This is an easy case, and the government is right to pursue it: AT&T is ripping off millions of customers. AT&T should be made obligated to give back both their unfair profits, as well as suffer a significant financial penalty to dissuade AT&T and others from ripping off their customers again.

    I can pay for a “6 GB data plan” or an “Unlimited data plan”. The 6 GB data plan provides more data. The 6 GB plan is not throttled towards zero Mbit/second.

  6. rsp (@Corsairx) - 8 years ago

    I have been on AT&T for over a decade. I am grandfathered into the unlimited plan and just on principle I will not end it. The pricing is comparable to the tiered plans. AT&T “punishes” me by not allowing me to turn my phone into a hot spot unless I am on a tiered plan… oh well.. have lived without a hot spot for this long…

    • PMZanetti - 8 years ago

      As much as you think you are beating the machine, you’re not. I was grandfathered in to the so called Unlimited Data plan and gave it up for the much more cost effective and user friendly Mobile Share plans.

      I want what works. I don’t have time to waste fighting the good fight against AT&T while using an inferior device plan in the meantime.

      • Osker Silv - 8 years ago

        Jailbreak your phone= Hot Spot :-0 :-)

    • Osker Silv - 8 years ago

      Jailbreak your phone= Hot Spot :-0 :-)

      • Osker Silv - 8 years ago

        Jailbreak your phone= Hot Spot :-0 :-)

  7. rettun1 - 8 years ago

    Well jeez if we can’t trust giant corporations, who can we trust??

  8. Andrew Messenger - 8 years ago

    AT&Ts unwillingness to even half-assedly match what T-Mobile is doing for their customers is losing them 6 lines from me this weekend. I can get twice as much data, music freedom, and more phone upgrades for $19/month less than what I pay AT&T, and I get a discount on AT&T, and i’m on a doubled promo data plan… pathetic.

  9. PMZanetti - 8 years ago

    Unless the fines are going directly into the pockets of affected users, instead of a few government offices, I couldn’t care less. The entire campaign is meaningless and will not do anything to change AT&T’s business practices, or improve life for users.

    The same can usually be said any time a government agency gets involved in any private sector matter.

    I loved Ron Paul’s idea of eradicating all alphabet soup agencies of the federal government and instantly solving all debt and budget issues.

  10. Osker Silv - 8 years ago

    “Apple last month removed subsidies from both AT&T and Verizon iPhones, moving to plans where customers pay the full cost of the phone on an installment plan.”

    Apple did NOT remove subsidized pricing, AT&T did. Also, Apple still offers Subsidized pricing for Verzion as well as Verizons new “Device Payment” plan, formally known as Edge.

  11. Robert Gartner - 7 years ago

    ATT needs to be subjected to Molopoly proceeding once again like they were years ago by the SEC>. I have just spent about half a day on the phone and on chat about a $7 modem monthly fee it attached to my account in arbitrary fashion. This started with the summons of a tach who came out and changed some outside wires. My computer still did not work. He asked for my modem. He took my modem and gave me another without testing to former one. He said it was outdated. It had showed that it was working fine. So then I get a bill for “rental of the new modem”. Arguing with Tech on chat today resulted in them saying my bill would have the bill retracted forevermore. Yet when billing got on they said No! Then they wanted to talk to me on the phone a super visor called immediately. He had not read the chat. Yet he refused. Then immediately I got a call from the Presidents office and she said the same and made up lies about what the tech had told her and what had happened! ATT needs to be severely reprimanded for treating the public in such hostile and predatory manner! Nail their asses some more FCC.>


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Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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