AT&T may be fined by FCC over throttling practices

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) could be fined by the FCC over its throttling practices, according to a court filing.

The agency is probing whether the carrier broke government rules related to Internet service, according to a Jan. 5 filing AT&T made in federal court, which was unearthed by Bloomberg.

In October, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against AT&T, alleging that the carrier misled as many as 3.5 million customers with legacy unlimited data plans by throttling their data speeds and changing the terms of their plans. The heart of the complaint is that AT&T failed to adequately disclose its throttling policy.

AT&T said the lawsuit does not have any merit. The carrier made the Jan. 5 filing as part of an effort to get the court to toss out the case.

AT&T said in the filing that the FTC lawsuit deals with the same issues that the FCC is investigating, according to Bloomberg. The carrier argues that mobile data services are regulated by the FCC, and the FTC does not have the authority to sue it over its practices related to those service.

"It is the FCC, not the FTC, that regulates network management practices," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel told Bloomberg.

"We manage our network resources" in a manner "that is transparent and fully consistent with the FCC's net neutrality rules," Siegel said, declining to comment on the FCC probe. The FCC declined to comment, according to Bloomberg.

AT&T plans to make its data throttling policy more uniform this year for customers on legacy unlimited data plans, regardless of what kind of smartphone they are using.

Currently, customers who have 3G or HSPA+ phones as well as legacy unlimited data plans are throttled for the remainder of their billing period after they exceed 3 GB of data in a month, but only "at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion." However, while LTE customers with grandfathered unlimited plans do not see their speeds throttled until they reach 5 GB of data usage in a month, their speeds are slowed down for the remainder of their billing cycle at all times--regardless of whether the network is congested.

That discrepancy is what is going to change this year, according to AT&T. "Once technologically available, we expect to adopt the same model for customers with 4G LTE smartphones on unlimited plans sometime in 2015," AT&T told Ars Technica in December. The company did not say when exactly the change would go into effect.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

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