AT&T should be investigated for ‘fraudulent’ data policies, public interest group says

AT&T on Monday announced a new plan that will let developers pay for the data used by their apps and services. The data consumed by apps that make use of this new feature would not apply toward a user’s data cap. The new service was pitched as a way for content providers to ease customers’ growing concerns over wireless data usage, however one public interest group sees the feature as a slap in the face to AT&T subscribers. “This new plan is unfortunate because it shows how fraudulent the AT&T data cap is, and calls into question the whole rationale of the data caps,” Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, said in a statement. “Apparently it has nothing to do with network management. It’s a tool to get more revenue from developers and customers.” Read on for more.

“The plan creates two new groups of customers and app developers — those who pay AT&T extra for the privilege of being exempt from the cap and those who don’t,” Feld continued. “We are disappointed that the FCC has ignored the two requests we have made for the agency to investigate the need for both wireless and landline broadband caps. There is still no rationale for why they are needed, what the network costs are, how they are imposed and how many customers are subject to them.”

AT&T’s smartphone data policies have been called into question lately following a new wave of subscriber complaints. Loyal customers who retained their unlimited data plans after AT&T switched to a tiered system can continue to use an unlimited amount of data each month, but their data speeds are throttled — sometimes to nearly unusable speeds, according to a number of readers who have emailed BGR with tales of woe — if they are among the top 5% of data users in a billing period.

On a number of occasions, subscribers have seen their data speeds slowed after less than 2GB of usage in a single billing period. For the same $30 AT&T is charging unlimited data plan holders each month, however, smartphone users on a tiered data plan can enjoy up to 3GB of full-speed data.

“This is exactly the type of market manipulation we hoped the FCC’s Open Internet rules would prevent,” Feld added. “If the Commission does not believe it has the authority under those rules to investigate this practice, it should do so under its general authority over wireless services.”

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