FCC under fire for collection of proposed fines against AT&T, TracFone and others

According to a recent Politico article, lawmakers are concerned that the FCC hasn't yet collected fines against some telecommunications companies. For example, the FCC has announced fines against the likes of AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) and others, but hasn't yet collected those fines. 

"If an enormous fine is announced and it's never prosecuted, it makes you wonder what's the purpose?" House telecom subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told Politico. "The question is, are they just after headlines or some sort of performance metric? I don't know."

However, in response, an FCC representative pointed out that the agency doesn't collect fines until they are made official. He said many of the fines outlined in the Politico article haven't yet reached the point where they have become actual fines that would be collected.

Nonetheless, some lawmakers are questioning the situation

"I am beyond confused as to why not one dime of that has been collected," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said at FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel's renomination hearing last month, according to Politico. "We might as well have a big flashing sign that says, 'Doesn't matter, do whatever you want in the Lifeline program because we're not even gonna bother to collect the money. And we're gonna keep paying you.'"

AT&T has been targeted by an FCC fine for what the agency said was not being transparent enough with its grandfathered unlimited data plan customers about how and when their speeds would be reduced if they use too much data. In its formal response to the agency, the carrier called the fine "unprecedented and indefensible" and said a court would toss it out if the FCC decided to levy the penalty.

According to AT&T's response in the case, the carrier wants the FCC to withdraw the proposed fine. AT&T said the FCC's decision in the case is arbitrary, excessive and exceeded its statutory authority.

Another FCC fine targets Lifeline player TracFone and other Lifeline recipients. An FCC representative explained that case has been referred to the FCC's inspector general to ensure the issue is treated with consistency.

For more:
- see this Politico article

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Article updated Nov. 24 with commentary from the FCC.