FTC sues AT&T; claims it’s throttling data speeds


Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are suing the nation’s No. 2 wireless carrier as agencies fight over jurisdiction in an Internet turf war.

FTC: The Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday that it was suing AT&T for deceptively slowing down speeds for unlimited data subscribers.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday it’s suing AT&T Mobility LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T Inc., accusing the company of deceiving and slowing Internet speeds for millions of “unlimited data” subscribers.

“The FTC alleges that AT&T, despite its unequivocal promises of unlimited data, began throttling data speeds in 2011 for its unlimited data plan customers after they used as little as 2 gigabytes of data in a billing period,” the commission said in its announcement.

Throttling is when Internet service providers slow a user’s Internet speed to reduce network congestion. Verizon Wireless announced at the beginning of October it abandoned plans to throttle its own unlimited data subscribers.

After a 5-0 vote, the FTC filed its complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

“According to the complaint, the throttling program has been severe, often resulting in speed reductions of 80 to 90 percent for affected users,” the FTC says.

“Thus far, according to the FTC, AT&T has throttled at least 3.5 million unique customers a total of more than 25 million times,” it said.

The FTC is asserting itself in a turf war with the Federal Communications Commission over jurisdiction in regulating the Internet.

Whereas the FCC is considering reclassifying broadband services as public utilities, the FTC is worried the move would neuter its ability to rein in ISPs engaging in deceptive business practices.

The FCC released nearly 2.5 million of the 3.9 million public comments submitted to the agency between July and September on Oct. 22 in the hopes of giving the agency and the “public a more fully formed understanding of the content and source of the reply comments,” according to a blog post by Gigi Sohn, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s special counsel for external affairs.

As of Monday, FCC staffers were encouraging the public to continue the discussion surrounding net neutrality.

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson