FTC suing AT&T over definition of the word "unlimited"

Faith Merino · October 28, 2014 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/3a09

The FTC calls AT&T out on its bullshit

True story: a few weeks ago, a guy from AT&T was going through my neighborhood, trying to sign people up for U-Verse. I laughed and shut the door.

Since it’s common knowledge at this point that AT&T sucks, I won’t go into all the reasons why AT&T sucks. Suffice it to say that AT&T sucks so much that the FTC is actually suing the company for deceiving customers.

The Federal Trade Commission charged AT&T on Tuesday with deceiving customers who signed up for an “unlimited” data plan by dramatically reducing their Internet speeds once they had crossed a certain amount of data each month.

Yes, we all know that AT&T has been throttling data speeds for several years now, but the FTC’s suit actually outlines in detail for the first time just how sneaky AT&T’s throttling program really was.

For starters, since 2011, AT&T has been throttling data speeds for customers after they used just two gigabytes of data in a billing period—which is, of course, complete and utter bullshit. And then there’s the matter of just how much AT&T reduced speeds. Maybe it just made everything a little sluggish? Maybe your Netflix video froze up a couple of times? Oh no, once you crossed that measly 2GB line, AT&T throttled your speed by as much as 90%, making basic Internet functions and app usage virtually impossible.

And to top that off, unlimited data customers who canceled their contracts after their speeds were throttled were then slapped with hefty termination fees amounting to hundreds of dollars.

Well played, AT&T. Well played.

AT&T no longer offers unlimited data plans, but those who had the plans before they were discontinued were allowed to keep them. AT&T discontinued the unlimited data plans in 2010, and a couple of years ago, CEO Randall Stephenson was noted for publicly stating that he regretted ever offering them in the first place. Essentially, it was an all-you-can-eat buffet where a lot of the customers actually could eat a Sizzler out of business.

The company later introduced tiered data plans and found a lot of success with those, with some 70% of customers paying for the more expensive options.

To date, AT&T has throttled at least 3.5 million customers on more than 25 million occasions. The company has also received thousands of complaints about slow speeds, with a number of customers actually quoting the definition of the word “unlimited.”

“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, in a statement. “The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”

Despite all of this, AT&T remains “baffled.”

“The FTC’s allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program,” the company said in a statement. “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.”


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