AT&T seeks dismissal of FTC lawsuit over data throttling

gavel
Image: walknboston/Flickr

AT&T asked an appellate court to let a previous decision stand that threw out a lawsuit from the federal government over its former practices for data throttling.

The suit, which was initially brought two years ago by the Federal Trade Commission, alleges that the nation’s second-largest 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. AT&T argued that the FTC lacks the authority to bring enforcement actions against providers of common-carrier services.

The Federal Communications Commission voted last year to approve its net neutrality rules, reclassifying broadband – including mobile broadband – as a common carrier telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

Sponsored by Blue Planet, a division of Ciena

NaaS demystified. What's behind the latest evolution and how can CSPs benefit from closed-loop automation and open APIs to help deliver new 5G-based services.

Blue Planet® powers OSS and network transformation with a state-of-the-art, holistic NaaS framework.

A three-judge panel sided with AT&T in August, overturning the FTC’s action against the operator. The Federal Trade Commission appealed its case against AT&T’s throttling practices last month, saying a previous ruling would allow technology companies that also offer phone or broadband services to circumvent enforcement of consumer-protection laws.

MediaPost reported that the operator filed papers in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals urging that the previous dismissal be upheld. "At the end of the day, the FTC cannot dispute that, in the 102-year history of the FTC Act, it has never been permitted to press a case against a common carrier," AT&T lobbied, according to MediaPost. "A decision of this court re-affirming that age-old result is not one of exceptional importance warranting ... review."

The heart of the FTC's complaint is that AT&T failed to adequately disclose its throttling policy. AT&T has said it has been "completely transparent" with customers since it started throttling unlimited data plan customers in 2011. However, there have been changes to AT&T's throttling policies since then.

AT&T last month put another legal battle with the FTC and the FCC to bed when it agreed to pay $105 million to settle claims that it allowed third-party companies to bill its customers for unauthorized charges. Regulators had alleged that until early this year the carrier billed subscribers for “hundreds of millions of dollars” from partners for ringtones and other offerings, with AT&T keeping at least 35 percent of the take, Recode reported.

Suggested Articles

Rakuten's offer of free service to the next three million subscribers gives an indication that it’s strongly motivated to sign people up.

A related Report and Order removes secondary non-federal operations from the 3.3-3.55 GHz portion to ready the band for commercial users.

The FCC adopted rules permitting expanded use of 50 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) band.