AT&T Misleads Mobile Customers, and Pays the Price

With the rise of mobile internet usage among the global population, it’s become all the more important for companies that provide services to have clear terms and conditions for contracts. As carriers, these businesses may be responsible for connecting millions of users with the internet– so in instances when they use misleading advertising, or otherwise hamper their service in such a way that it could be considered devalued for the consumer, it’s often the task of government agencies to take them to task for it.

That’s exactly what’s been happening to AT&T, in an issue which began to see more attention in October of 2014. The FCC, a United States regulatory agency dedicated to communications of television, radio, and now the internet, began a tense relationship with the telecomm giant, with accusations that the company was “throttling” mobile internet users who exceeded a set data cap, often in the single digit gigabyte range. For most mobile users, that cap wouldn’t be an issue from month to month browsing, but for users that are taking advantage of the ever expanding library of media that can be had, it’s practically an anchor tied around their feet.

AT&T Misleads Mobile Customers, and Pays the Price

Unlimited, with Conditions

The main point of contention comes from the fact that AT&T is one of many mobile carriers that promises consumers “unlimited data.” They technically do provide it in this instance, but greatly diminish your ability to actually download unlimited data by slowing down your connection once you exceed a set limit. This isn’t mentioned in their contracts, nor has it ever been brought to the attention of the consumers themselves.

AT&T isn’t the only mobile carrier to engage in this behavior, either. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Tracfone have all had similar strategies for consumers that deal in heavy traffic, and it’s gotten them negative attention as well. While the FCC plans to fine AT&T for $100 Million USD, it also has plans to sue Tracfone for $40 million USD, meaning that there are multiple targets for the agency, and possibly tens of millions of consumers who could be effected by the outcome.

“Throttling” is Nothing New

Internet service providers have been looking for ways to cut down on consumer bases which have used increasingly bandwidth-heavy applications for the past decade, something that came to the forefront with the rise in popularity of movie-streaming service Netflix. While proponents of speed limiting say that the measures would only effect a small fraction of all internet users, in reality, strategies and measures are applied across all users during peak internet usage hours, which varies from area to area, and targets specific internet addresses and servers related to Netflix, YouTube, and even online gaming services.

All of this comes in an effort to slow down the general usage of the internet by a majority of users, creating a more manageable, and affordable, “average” speed. One that isn’t actively advertised in marketing for data plans and home internet packages.