As we have discussed on a number of different occasions, broadband companies (wired and wireless) continue to publicly blast the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for trying to classify their companies under the umbrella of Title II. Meanwhile, all Title II does is simply give the FCC power to actually help consumers against blatant violations by those broadband companies.
Speaking of blatant violations, AT&T is in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over their promise to give customers “unlimited data” only to then throttle those customers whenever they reached an unknown and rather random amount of data every month. In some cases, customers saw their speeds drop by nearly 90 percent.
As the FTC noted in their original complaint against AT&T, customers on tiered data plans were using significantly larger amounts of data than unlimited data customers yet saw no drop in speeds.
“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise. The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.” - FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez
Another big complaint against AT&T by the FTC was that the throttling language was hidden in the contracts from those on unlimited data plans so when those customers would cancel their contracts because of the throttling, AT&T would then hit them with significant early termination fees.
But AT&T has an answer for the FTC. According to AT&T, the FTC doesn’t have the jurisdiction to regulate their company. Why? Because AT&T is a “common carrier” internet provider under Title II.
AT&T is essentially admitting that they will use their Title II status to simply dodge charges of throttling customer data. As Engadget notes, AT&T is claiming that since it is a common carrier company that provides voice services, it is exempt from the FTC’s jurisdiction over data and that the FCC has the actual jurisdiction.
Doesn’t this sound familiar? Oh, that’s right. Verizon also invoked Title II classification when it allowed them to make billions in Washington DC, New Jersey and other states. By some reports, Verizon made as much as $4.4 billion in additional revenue from this classification.
What makes this case even more odd is that, as Ars Technica reports, didn’t AT&T just settle with the FTC over mobile cramming charges? AT&T agreed to pay $80 million for violations that did involve data.
Either way, it looks as if AT&T will get hit with a fine by the FCC if they somehow get themselves out of trouble with the FTC.