AT&T has a history of stupid statements, outright lying and actual fraud. No really, AT&T has claimed on multiple occasions that they want to impose numerous troll toll taxes on anyone using “their network”, outright lied to the FCC and multiple states/cities about broadband expansion (while accepting every last scent of taxpayer money from the promises) and has been hit with fines for defrauding the FCC and taxpayers, the latest being AT&T collecting undeserved federal subsidies from the FCC’s Lifeline program. So, stupid…lying…and fraud.
So, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised at AT&T hitting a brand new low in their recent response to the FCC fining them for lying to customers about their unlimited data plan. Last month, the FCC fined AT&T $100 million for slowing the speeds of customers with unlimited data plans without actually telling those customers about the throttling.
I was in fact one of those AT&T customers who got throttled with an unlimited data plan.
AT&T is now claiming that the FCC fine was “unprecedented and indefensible” and is demanding that the FCC withdraw the proposed fine. AT&T claims that the throttling was only done to a “small minority of unlimited plan users whose heavy use could impair others’ online experience.” Additionally, AT&T said that the FCC assertion that consumers were harmed is “bogus” and that it was “absurd to suggest that AT&T intended to or actually did mislead the relevant Unlimited Data Plan customers.”
AT&T also told the FCC that they had no authority to stop them from screwing consumers with ridiculous and illegal early termination fees or stop them from using the word “unlimited” while clearly meaning “very limited.”
The problem that I have with AT&T’s response is that virtually everything they said has been and continues to be easily rebuked by simply looking at the facts.
First, let’s remember that AT&T has in fact changed their throttling rules due to recent attention by the FTC and FCC about past throttling issues. It wasn’t until a month ago that AT&T put in their rules that AT&T would only throttle if the network at issue was congested. Previously, AT&T rules allowed it do throttle whenever they wanted.
Second, when I first bought the iPhone with AT&T and an unlimited data plan in 2007, the customer agreement says nothing about how I could only consume a certain amount of data. Nowhere. It only states that I could use as much data as I want.
Third, the notion that AT&T’s actions weren’t hurting consumers is so out-of-touch with reality that I am not sure where to begin. AT&T has been trying to get customers off their unlimited data plans for years. When Apple released the “Facetime” app, AT&T blocked it unless the AT&T customer had a data capped plan. This meant that those with caps as low as 2 GB would be forced to pay hefty overages if they used Facetime on several occasions in a month. All of this was done while AT&T faced little to no “congestion” on their network. Don’t forget how AT&T initially responded to the Facetime blockage. When they got criticism for their actions, AT&T tried to claim that they were able to discriminate against the app because it was “pre-loaded“. Huh?
Let’s go back to “congestion”. Why is it that AT&T has continued for years to throttle customers on unlimited data plans after they use just several GB’s (due to congestion) yet offer data capped customers the ability to use more data for more money a month? How can someone be throttled after just 5 GB’s on an unlimited data plan yet be told that they wouldn’t be throttled if they upgraded their data plan to a 10GB a month package.
Is it really that hard to see that AT&T was trying to boost revenue by pushing subscribers onto pricier plans?