Are you an iPhone user who signed up for an unlimited data plan through AT&T? Have your download speeds seemed to slow down as you use more data? Well your senses aren’t fooling you. The FCC is finally incurring a fine on big-time wireless carrier AT&T for slowing down the data speeds for its unlimited users.
The FCC proclaimed that AT&T knowingly slowed down the speeds of some of their heavy data users and therefore deceived them with the “unlimited data” tagline on their plans. This disingenuous move by AT&T clearly breaks a rule established in 2010 (dubbed the “Transparency Rule”), clearly stating that carriers needed to have a high level of openness with their customers. AT&T retorted that while it did indeed slow down data speeds to keep their service running, and that they adequately notified their customers of the drop in speed (which, as a Gizmodo reporter uncovered, is located in the fine print of AT&T’s insanely long contract). Still yet, the FCC has imposed a record-breaking $100 million on them for misleading their customers.
But according to AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris, the heavy fine isn’t exactly fair. “The FCC has specifically identified this practice as a legitimate and reasonable way to manage network resources for the benefit of all customers,” he noted to Bloomberg Business. However, the problem is that “unlimited” should actually mean unlimited.
To boil it down, AT&T knowingly decreased data speeds for their unlimited customers after they used a set amount of data in a billing cycle. Most users noted that after a certain amount of data was consumed, they could barely use basic functions like GPS, video streaming, and more. These lags typically lasted for a total of 12 days during billing cycles, according to the LA Times.
In the end, the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says that AT&T customers were misled, and that ”consumers deserve to get what they pay for.” It makes other wireless carriers and telecom companies wonder whether the FCC will be cracking down after the installation of the new internet regulations earlier this month.
AT&T has a total of 30 days to respond, after which a final settlement will be put into place.