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Today, the Federal Communications Commission fined AT&T Mobility $100,000,000 for misleading its customers about unlimited data plans. The FCC alleges that AT&T slowed speeds for unlimited-data customers and also failed to notify customers that they could receive slower speeds than advertised. Public Knowledge raised questions about data throttling practices last year in a series of letters to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.
The following statement may be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior VP of Public Knowledge:
“Last August, Public Knowledge initiated the process for a complaint under the FCC’s net neutrality transparency rules for the practice of throttling unlimited plans. Today, the FCC shows that it will vigorously respond to consumer complaints when warranted. After persuading subscribers to stay by promising they could keep their unlimited plans, AT&T throttled their speed, rendering this promise effectively meaningless. The $100 million fine the Commission levies today should hopefully cause carriers to think twice before playing fast and loose with promises to consumers.
“In the last 15 months, Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis Leblanc and Chairman Tom Wheeler have worked hard to regain the public trust that the FCC stands with consumers. For too long, carriers have laughed at the FCC’s consumer protection regulations and viewed the occasional fine as a cost of doing business. Unlike their dissenting Republican colleagues, Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner Rosenworcel and Commissioner Clyburn have sent a clear signal that the days of tolerating consumer rip-offs with finger-wagging warnings and a slap on the wrist are over -- at least for now.
“Big companies do not love consumer protection enforcement, and we will no doubt see these same companies running to Congress to put the leash on the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. Hopefully, members of Congress will remember that the public needs a vigorous consumer watchdog, not an industry lapdog hampered by a choke chain.”