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AT&T Mobility faces $100M fine for misleading consumers

20150618_throttling_fbFeel like your mobile Internet connection has been slower than usual?

Well, if you’re an AT&T Mobility customer, that may be the case.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to slap AT&T Mobility with a $100 million fine for allegedly “throttling” speeds for unlimited data customers— the largest fine ever of its kind.

According to the FCC, AT&T failed to sufficiently inform its customers that they could receive speeds slower than the advertised network speeds.  In particular, the agency alleges that AT&T implemented a “Maximum Bit Rate” policy, in which the company capped maximum data speeds for unlimited customers who used a set amount of data within a billing cycle.  These capped speeds were much lower than the network speeds AT&T advertised for its plans.

In other words, once customers on “unlimited” data plans had used a certain amount of data, AT&T delivered significantly slower service than expected.  The FCC says that AT&T violated the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule for failing to adequately notify customers about its intentional policy of reducing speeds.

An FCC investigation revealed that millions of AT&T customers have been affected by these slower speeds.  Since 2011, the Commission has received thousands of complaints from consumers who said they felt they had been tricked onto a long-term AT&T  contract— subject to early termination fees— for an unlimited data plan that wasn’t actually unlimited.

“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “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.”