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Virginia Attorneys > Blog > General > AT&T Manipulating Internet Speeds Causes FCC to Come Down Hard

AT&T Manipulating Internet Speeds Causes FCC to Come Down Hard

The story of AT&T’s manipulation of internet speeds reeks of greed and arrogance, not to mention a blatant disregard of the rules.  Let this be a wake-up call for all the other broadband providers out there that seek to play fast and loose with consumers. The FCC is [now] paying attention.

Recently the FCC hit AT&T with a $100 million fine for failing to disclose “throttling” practices to customers.  Before the company switched to tiered data plans it offered unlimited data. Like most other providers, as internet use surged, the company stopped offering unlimited data, but allowed current users to keep their plans. In theory that was a good deal until customers realized that AT&T was intentionally slowing down their data speed, sometimes to the speed of dial-up, to keep costs down.

AT&T maintains customers were informed and plans to fight the FCC on this. FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler has made it clear that he intends to protect the consumer’s access to broadband and is acting under the guidelines of the net neutrality act.

“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure.”

The rules and regulations for data plans are complex and difficult to understand—with our dependency on the internet we are powerless, as individuals, to effectively fight cell and internet providers.  Net neutrality, first implemented in 2010, requires broadband companies to explain their policies and practices to subscribers. The fine assessed against AT&T sends the message that breaking the rules is no longer acceptable.

This is the second action taken against AT&T in recent months. The company is in the middle of a lawsuit, brought in October of 2014 by the FTC, alleging the company slowed down internet services to 3.5 million users.

The FCC’s move is making broadband providers a little edgy but it’s a positive step for consumer rights. Access to the internet has become essential to doing business and staying connected today. The FCC’s action is reassuring; hopefully we will see more aggressive protection of our rights as the broadband providers continue to value profit over customer service.

“Big fines say, ‘Those days are over, and we expect you to behave,’ ” said Harold Feld, senior vice president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge. “As broadband is recognized increasingly as the critical service for people . . .we’re seeing the consumer-protection agencies within the government taking it a lot more seriously.” (WashingtonPost.com, 6/17/15)

Perhaps the FCC’s action will persuade AT&T and the other providers to conduct business fairly and lawfully, but probably not.  One suspects that fighting this powerful industry is a little like the game of whack-a-mole.

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