AT&T hit with $100 million fine from FCC over throttled data complaints on unlimited plans

The FCC says it has received thousands of complaints from customers who noticed lower data speeds on their grandfathered data plan, and as a result AT&T will have to pay a hefty sum. In the ruling, the FCC points out that "AT&T inhibited consumers' ability to make informed choices about mobile broadband data services," and as a result AT&T has been issued a $100 million fine. AT&T was found to have violated the Commission's Open Internet Transparency Rule, and the fine will bring the company back into compliance. The two specific violations were:

  • (1) using the misleading and inaccurate term "unlimited" to label a data plan that was in fact subject to prolonged speed reductions after a customer used a set amount of data; and
  • (2) failing to disclose the express speed reductions that it applied to "unlimited" data plan customers once they hit a specified data threshold.

While AT&T provided some warning to customers, the FCC found that it was not sufficient enough to fulfill the requirements of the transparency rule. As an additional part of the ruling, AT&T must notify each customer with an unlimited plan of the violation, and include a revised disclosure statement. In the revised disclosure the company must include the maximum speeds to which it limits data plans, and AT&T must allow any customers with the unlimited data plan who wish to cancel their plan to do so without charge.

Source: FCC

Jared DiPane

Jared started off writing about mobile phones back when BlackBerry ruled the market, and Windows Mobile was kinda cool. Now, with a family, mortgage and other responsibilities he has no choice but to look for the best deals, and he's here to share them with you.

  • I'm still getting throttled when over 5GB even tough they are only supposed to do it if you are on a congested network.
  • Danggggggg......
  • How does their fine help me now? I went to Vegas for a week, on day one I got throttled for the first time ever. My phone was virtually unusable for cellular data for another 28 days.
  • This is AT&T's way to get you on shared data plans. I have a 15GB shared plan on Verizon and pay $85 for the data. I share with 3 lines. Sent from the iMore App
  • Good! I had that unlimited plan and they put a cap on the internet after u went over 3gb. I complained for years. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have never understood why they can't just 'discontinue' the "unlimited" plans & be done with it.
  • They don't want to lose customers. The majority of them don't use much data but they're determined to have "unlimited" data. Tell them otherwise and they'll freak out.
  • I think that's exactly right. I've tried to explain the good things about their mobile share plan (share among devices, large caps, tethering included) to friends and acquaintances but they think they're getting the better deal with "unlimited." The throttling pain was real and I quit the unlimited plan as soon as the alternatives were available. The caps are high and the prices are cheaper.
  • Sure wish my company would switch from AT&T unlimited to AT&T 15GB with tethering! As it is, they make me carry a Sprint hotspot that never has a good connection. Someday.
  • That depends on how you use your data. The caps aren't that high for some. I have a family plan on Verizon, but it is an old one with separate data. I keep my Verizon plan because of unlimited data. I almost switched to ATT back when they were offering double data caps on family plans but would have still spent more. I use a lot of data on my phone, never less than 6gb per month. Plus for an extra $30 I can turn on an unlimited hotspot with my phone. Some months my data exceeds 30gb. My brother missed unlimited data and regularly uses 4gb, and that is with him actively limiting his usage. Sent from the iMore App
  • That promo plan, combined with their rollover policy, was a good deal. I have 3 devices sharing 30GB of data for the regular price of 15GB, minus a modest FAN discount. It's more than the original "unlimited" but includes tethering and no throttling, so I'm reasonably satisfied. Having access to up to 50GB a month (if I haven't overrun the previous month, excess rolls over) is good for peace of mind while traveling. It isn't hard to imagine wireless replacing landlines for most people someday. That will be a cool future. It seems wasteful to carry expensive plans for both cellular and home internet.
  • Well thanks FCC! I'm sure our at&t bills will go up as its going to be tacked on to the consumer to pay this fine. Sent from the iMore App
  • I would leave Verizon if they ever took my unlimited data away. I use 20gb a month.... I use my iPhone the way Apple intended it to be used. Not over paying for data and always worried about going over. I would go to one of those stupid prepaid plans at Walmart before I'd go to a carrier that offers unlimited. Because they will suck with speeds and promise what they can't deliver. ( t-mobile and sprint) Sent from the iMore App
  • ipandorum, I dumped Verizon, I had the grandfathered unlimited plan, My data speeds dropped so slow I could barely get a web page to come up. They didn't even throttle me, their coverage sucked, overnight my signal just got that bad. I've been with T-Mobile, real unlimited data without speed throttling, my data speeds are over 60mb down and 25up. Throw in free tethering up to 8gb pr month, if I want more I just need to call. 3gb per month free data on my ipad. These speeds are inside my house, get 5 bars of signal all the time day or night. T-Mobile blows Verizon and T-Mobile in my area, {suburb of Boston} The best thing is T-Mobile is spending more money today and everyday than any other Carrier in the US. They keep getting better.
  • This made my day. I knew if I kept my "unlimited" plan long enough it would pay off. Sent from the iMore App
  • I am an unlimited customer and I get throttled every cycle. Good these MF's got fined. Sent from the iMore App
  • What happens to the money? Another vacay for obama?
  • Right?! Because we know it doesn't go in our pocket. And if anything, now at&t will raise our monthly bill after we are out of contract. Sent from the iMore App
  • Now u cant even buy a new phone without going with their NEXT plan! Absolute BS! Sent from the iMore App
  • Throttling does not take away the ability for unlimited data. The complaint makes no sense. Should throttling not be so drastic? Sure. Should it happen after using more data? Would be nice. But what should the cut off be? Anyway, while I don't agree with AT&T or any other company that throttles, technically it still allows data consumption. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I'm not sure why people are saying to get rid of my unlimited plan and switch to a tiered one.. 1. When we all originally HAD to have unlimited data plans to purchase an iPhone there was no throttling, etc. you paid your $30 a month and moved on. But that wasn't enough money for AT&T so now they punish those who first purchased this botched plan. I think the FCC was correct it stating that AT&T did not clearly outline the NEW limitations of the unlimited plan. I guess my issue is how unlimited data can then be considered using "too much". Throttling is the new loop hole? Fine. But don't throttle me at 5GB when you offer plans that provide more data at a higher cost. Basically it's AT&T's standard operation to get more money off loyal customers (i.e. "You can use as much data as you want.......if you pay us for each time you go over") Sent from the iMore App