AT&T in hot water after throttling 'unlimited' data

Charged with 'deceptive and unfair data throttling'

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Does "unlimited" really mean unlimited when it comes to data? The Federal Trade Commission says it doesn't as far as AT&T is concerned, though it should.

The FTC is suing the carrier for allegedly throttling data speeds of subscribers who believed they were paying for truly unlimited data.

The official charge, according to the FTC's announcement, is "deceptive and unfair data throttling."

"AT&T promised its customers 'unlimited' data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a press release. "The issue here is simple: 'unlimited' means unlimited."

AT&T defends itself

The FTC says AT&T throttled data transfer speeds of certain users by as much as 90%, and failed to adequately inform its customers that throttling was taking place.

For its part AT&T says, "the FTC's allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program."

"It's baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts," AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Wayne Watts said in a statement sent to TechRadar.

He continued, "We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning. We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented. In addition, this program has affected only about 3% of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message."

The FTC is on the warpath; earlier this year it initiated a lawsuit against T-Mobile for allegedly fraudulently charging users hundreds of millions of dollars by putting sneaky entries on their phone bills.

It will be interesting to watch this latest battle unfold, especially if it has any ramifications for past, current or future AT&T customers - whether that means revised policies or even settlements for previous subscribers.

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