AT&T reaches settlement with FTC over throttling

The long-running battle between the FTC and AT&T over data throttling practices has finally reached the end. The two parties have reached a settlement in the case that originally began in 2014, according to a report from Reuters.

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Details of the settlement are still unknown, but a recently published federal court ruling says the deal was reached on August 2nd, with the parties subsequently requesting a 90-day stay to allow the FTC to review the details. Past reports have suggested the deal will include an injunction as well as a monetary payment.

The FTC initially sued AT&T over its deceptive unlimited data claims, saying that the carrier failed to inform customers that they were would be significantly throttled if they used a certain amount of data. This applied to users who were grandfathered in to AT&T’s early “unlimited” data plans, with the FTC arguing that customers were not getting what they initially signed up for.

AT&T responded by saying the throttling affected only a small number of users, and that those users were notified via text when the throttling kicked in. The carrier called the claims made by the FTC “baseless” and “baffling.”

In 2016, an appeals court said that AT&T’s “common carrier status” meant it didn’t have to disclose the throttling per the FTC. In 2018, however, a federal court decided that the FTC could move forward with its case against AT&T, saying that its data services were not part of its common carrier status.

Of course, the practice that the FTC initially sued AT&T over is now common among carriers in the United States – with the differentiator seemingly being better disclosure. It’s unclear what, if anything, the FTC’s settlement with AT&T could mean for the rest of the industry and consumers.

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