The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a monetary forfeiture of $100 million against AT&T Mobility for misleading its wireless customers about hidden restrictions in the company’s so-called unlimited mobile data plans.
In a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture issued in mid-June 2015, the Commission charged AT&T with intentionally reducing data speeds for customers with unlimited data plans without notifying them of the restrictions. Specifically, the company implemented a “maximum bit rate” policy in 2011 that capped the maximum data speeds for customers with unlimited data plans once they exceeded a set amount of data within a given billing cycle.
These actions violate the Commission’s 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule, which “requires fixed and mobile broadband providers to publically disclose sufficient and accurate information about the providers’ network management practices, performance and commercial terms of their service.” According to the Commission, AT&T’s notice about its maximum bit rate policy for unlimited data plan subscribers “was not sufficient to enable AT&T customers to make informed decisions about their data plans.”
An investigation by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau determined that millions of AT&T customers were adversely affected by the company’s maximum bit rate policy, experiencing slower speeds for an average of 12 days during each billing cycle.