The FCC has body slammed AT&T with a $100 million dollar fine for misleading customers and throttling their data. It is the largest fine in FCC history.
AT&T offered customers unlimited data plans starting in 2007 but discontinued the practice in 2010 according to the FCC. However there were millions of AT&T customers with unlimited data plans still in effect. AT&T decided to throttle, or restrict the data flow, to those customers once they hit a certain threshold each month. This was a clear contract violation and the FCC was obviously not happy.
According to the FCC AT&T “capped speeds were much slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised and significantly impaired the ability of AT&T customers to access the Internet or use data applications for the remainder of the billing cycle.”
AT&T isn’t the only carrier to throttle. Verizon and T-Mobile have been accused of the practice. Supposedly Verizon has ceased the practice. T-Mobile is known to slow down data of its top users when the network is congested. According to T-Mobile the customer most likely to be throttled are those who perform peer-to-peer file sharing or download torrents. T-Mobile smartly made this practice clear to its customers. AT&T failed to do the same. The company never definitively stated in any of its marketing materials or billing statements what it was doing. Thousands of customer complaints resulted in an FCC investigation.
Sprint, the other major carrier, has announced that it is ceasing its throttling practice as a result of the new FCC Net Netrality ruling. Sprint had been restricting data speeds for a certain percentage of users who consumed what the company believed was execesive amounts of data. But Sprint put the brakes on that policy.
Breaking It Down
This news is significant for black people for one simple reason. Black people are more likely to use a mobile device for Internet access than other people. That means we are consuming more data on our phones and tablets than others. Consequently we are more likely to be labeled a data hog than others. Now how many black people were affected because of throttling? Who knows? But the practice was deceptive and violated the contract that AT&T had with its customers. The FCC has delivered the message loud and clear to AT&T; honor your contract. We all know exactly how the cell carriers act when we fail to make a payment or break the contract. Now they know how we feel.