After a high profile suit against AT&T filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) late last year, AT&T still has not decided to mend its ways as it continues to utilize legal loopholes to its advantage in its continued throttling of unlimited data customers. Last year’s FTC suit against AT&T was filed because it was alleged that nearly 3.5 million customers’ broadband speeds were throttled to speeds as low as 90 percent of what was promised to them in their plans.
The FTC action against AT&T had arisen because the latter throttled speeds of its unlimited plan users regardless of any other criteria. Once the users touched a limit of their monthly plans, the users would face lowered speeds. Although throttling is something that every major carrier does, yet AT&T did throttling differently from others. The other major carriers throttled speeds only if the user tried connecting to a congested tower.
Otherwise, if a user tried connecting to a traffic free tower or at times when the congestion is low, an unlimited plan user could still enjoy faster broadband speeds, even after reaching his monthly limit. However, AT&T would throttle the speeds of every user of its unlimited plan regardless of any other consideration.
Despite FTC action against AT&T, the Whiteacre Tower Company still continues to throttle speeds of its users indiscriminately. The recent FCC rules released regarding net neutrality which will see their implementation in the next 60 days also did not seem to have much impact on AT&T. Although AT&T has expressed that it will change its policy to match with the one followed by most other carriers, AT&T’s actions go against its stated intention. AT&T is heavily resisting the FTC suit by claiming that the fair trade watchdog lacks jurisdiction in the above-mentioned suit.
AT&T’s claims against FTC’s lack of jurisdiction is not without merit anymore, especially after considering the fact that FCC’s new net neutrality rules now consider even broadband service providers as ‘common carriers’. This expanded definition of ‘common carriers’ will bring all the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under the direct supervision of the FCC. However, FTC claimed that it can still retain jurisdiction over AT&T for violations of law that were committed prior to the publication of FCC’s new rules.
FCC’s new net neutrality rules that were released in a 400 page document also contains a rule against throttling and says that, “A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful device, subject to reasonable network management.”