FCC Plans To Hit AT&T With $100 Million Fine Over “Unlimited” Data Plans

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Wednesday that it plans to fine AT&T, the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier by subscribers, $100 million for misleading consumers about its unlimited mobile data plans.

The FCC charges that AT&T throttled data plans for subscribers grandfathered into its unlimited data plans and “failed to adequately notify” customers that they’d be experiencing much slower speeds. These actions violated the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule, according to the Commission, which requires broadband providers to sufficiently disclose details of their network practices to the public. 

A statement from the FCC released Wednesday morning disclosed that its Enforcement Bureau’s investigation found that AT&T customers who had their speeds reduced “were slowed for an average of 12 days per billing cycle,” actions that “significantly” impeded the customers’ abilities to conduct “common data applications such as GPS mapping or streaming video.”

“Unlimited means unlimited,” said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “As today’s action demonstrates, the Commission is committed to holding accountable those broadband providers who fail to be fully transparent about data limits.”

The release also detailed that the Commission had received “thousands of complaints” from AT&T’s customers who felt “surprised” and “misled” by AT&T’s practices of intentionally slowing the speeds of their unlimited data plans.

“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in the statement. “Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure.”

Wednesday’s fine against AT&T adds to the hundreds of millions of dollars in fines that have been levied against the nation’s four largest carriers by the FCC in the past year. Last month, the FCC announced that Verizon and Sprint had agreed to pay $90 million and $68 million respectively, for “cramming,” or including unauthorized charges on customer’s phone bills.

In a statement, an AT&T spokesman said that the company plans to “vigorously dispute the FCC’s assertions.”