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AT&T Nailed With a Massive $100M Fine for Misleading Consumers on ‘Unlimited’ Data Plans

Updated 8 years ago
AT&T Unlimited Data Plans $100 Million Fine

Oh my. The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday issued a massive smack down against AT&T for offering consumers “unlimited” data plans and then severely throttling their speeds once they reached certain limits every month. In all, the FCC hit AT&T with a huge $100 million fine for allegedly misleading consumers, although AT&T has vowed to not take this lying down.

RELATED: T-Mobile will slow down your ‘unlimited’ LTE data in some circumstances – here are the details

“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said of the commission’s decision. “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.”

An AT&T spokesman says the company isn’t going to accept the commission’s ruling, however.

“We will vigorously dispute the FCC’s assertions,” AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris told Bloomberg. “The FCC has specifically identified this practice as a legitimate and reasonable way to manage network resources for the benefit of all customers.”

AT&T last month changed its policy of throttling customers with “unlimited” data plans once they hit certain monthly consumption thresholds. Now AT&T says that “customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone or on a 4G LTE smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes (3G/4G) or 5 gigabytes (4G LTE) of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion.”

This is different from before because AT&T used to claim the right to throttle “unlimited” LTE data once users exceeded certainly limits for the duration of billing cycles. Now it seems that once your connection moves off a congested site or once the site you’re on is no longer congested, you’ll be returned to your normal LTE data speeds.

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.