AT&T is facing blowback from a decision it made back in 2011 to throttle some of its unlimited data customers today in the form of a new lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The government agency claims AT&T deceptively throttled customer data, while the carrier denies breaking any laws.
AT&T hasn’t officially offered an unlimited data plan for a a few years now, but a decent number of the network’s customers are still holding onto their old contracts. Since 2011 the carrier has throttled some of them in what it calls an effort to balance growing data consumption. The FTC’s argument hinges on claims that AT&T “kept people from using data they paid for,” explains FTC attorney Lisa Weintraub Schifferle. She adds that “if you promise unlimited data, you’re on the hook to deliver.”
In response AT&T issued an official statement denying the legitimacy of the new lawsuit. “The FTC’s allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program,” said AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Wayne Watts. He adds that the throttling in question only affects three percent of its customers, and was widely publicized in a 2011 press release.
Even if it is legal, throttling still feels like a dirty word. We’re sure AT&T’s remaining unlimited data customers would prefer to get the same speeds offered to all other subscribers, but that doesn’t mean the carrier will give in to demands. This isn’t the first time the FTC has gotten a sharp response after suing a major carrier, and we’re curious to see how this one plays out.