A couple of weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced they planned to fine AT&T Mobility, LLC $100,000,000 for misleading customers about unlimited mobile data plans.
The FCC stated, “AT&T severely slowed down the data speeds for customers with unlimited data plans and that the company failed to adequately notify its customers that they could receive speeds slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised.”
Last year, I wrote a blog complaining about AT&T’s practice. They had apparently been throttling customers for a few years. However, while I have used smartphones for almost 10 years, it wasn’t until I upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 that throttling data affected me.
I’m not blaming my Note 3 in anyway, this is all on AT&T, but it was that the Note 3 is “an impressive phone, with many handy-dandy features,” and I was working towards utilizing it to its full potential.
Anyway, when one is getting close to a 5GB threshold, AT&T sends a threat text stating, “Your data usage on your 4G LTE smartphone is near 5GB this month. Exceeding 5GB during this or future billing cycles will result in reduced data speeds, though you will still be able to email & surf the web.”
First of all, the “you will still be able to email & surf the web” statement is a bit of a lie. The reduced data speeds are so slow that it makes a smartphone useless, and the Unlimited Plan is a smartphone plan. One can receive email, and technically surf the web, but that is about it. However, web pages load at speeds reminiscent of dial-up and most, if not all, of those handy-dandy apps on your phone become immediately useless.
Imagine going to an All-You-Can-Eat restaurant, and the first time you go to fill your plate you are given a 12 inch dinner plate, but the next time you go up you are restricted to only taking a 4 inch plate. Yeah, it is still technically All-You-Can-Eat, but it is a practice designed so that you won’t and can’t eat all you can eat.
The FCC’s position boils down to the idea that “Unlimited means unlimited,” regardless of any other disclosures or small-print AT&T may have given customers, which is AT&T’s primary defense for fleecing customers.
The Hill reported AT&T’s statement, “Under any lawful mode of analysis, the fact that AT&T complied with the Transparency Rule’s requirements by posting an online disclosure containing the information the Commission required should end this case. AT&T, however, went well beyond the Rule’s requirements and directly notified all users affected by the MBR policy in numerous additional ways.”
In reality, the first time most customers become aware of AT&T’s practice of throttling data is when they get their first threat text.
The basic difference of opinion here is the FCC, and customers like myself, believe a data plan titled Unlimited implies unlimited at a consistent level of service. AT&T believes unlimited data means unlimited data at any speed, even if it makes your smartphone essentially unusable.
AT&T is asking the FCC to withdraw and cancel their plan to hit the company with a $100 million fine for misleading customers. My proposal is for all of AT&T’s wireless customers to make the switch to T-Mobile or one of the smaller carriers. They will appreciate your business more.