‘Unlimited Means Unlimited’ – F.C.C. to Fine AT&T $100 Million for ‘Unlimited Data’ Limitations

The Federal Communications Commission has voted by a 3-2 majority to fine AT&T Mobility $1 million for inadequately informing customers of limitations the company placed on supposedly “unlimited” mobile data plans. AT&T began offering “unlimited data” in 2007, but in 2011 started “throttling” (or capping) data speeds once customers on unlimited 4G LTE plans use five gigabytes of data in a given billing cycle.The company no longer offers these plans to new customers.

AT&T has argued that it sufficiently informs consumers of this policy by multiple means, including billing statement notifications and a text message alert once 75 percent of the threshold has been reached. In a statement, a company spokesman said that AT&T will “vigorously dispute the F.C.C.’s assertions.”

The F.C.C. determined that AT&T failed to satisfy disclosure requirements under the Commission’s 2010 Open Internet rules, because customers were not informed about when the speed reductions would come into effect, what the maximum data speeds would be when the caps do come into effect, and how this would impact video chat and streaming applications. The F.C.C. found that the average “unlimited data” customer experienced 12 days of data throttling per billing cycle and that data speeds during this period would be capped as low as 5 percent of normal.

“Unlimited means unlimited… The Commission is committed to holding accountable those broadband providers who fail to be fully transparent about data limits,”

F.C.C. Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement.

The Federal Trade Commission has also filed suit against the company for misleading millions of customers with the “deceptive” practice of throttling data plans that were marketed as “unlimited.”


Read the F.C.C. notice to AT&T here.

Read AT&T’s online disclosure of “unlimited data” speed reductions here.

Read the Federal Trade Commission press release regarding its lawsuit against AT&T here.

Read more here – “F.C.C. to Fine AT&T for Slowing Data Speeds of Some Customers,” (Rebecca Ruiz, The New York Times).

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