AT&T May Face FCC Fine Over Data Slowdowns for Users

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering fining AT&T Inc. for failing to adequately notify customers about reductions in mobile data speeds for some heavy users, a practice known as “data throttling,” the company said.

The FCC is investigating whether AT&T Mobility violated government rules and orders concerning Internet service, the agency said in a letter AT&T filed in court Jan. 5.

The Federal Trade Commission accused the company in a 2014 lawsuit of deceiving at least 3.5 million smartphone customers who paid for unlimited data plans and had their transmission speeds drastically reduced. The company disclosed the FCC probe in court documents seeking dismissal of the case.

AT&T says the FTC lawsuit deals with the same issues that the FCC is investigating. Mobile data services are regulated by the FCC, and the FTC lacks authority to sue, AT&T said in its filing in San Francisco federal court.

“It is the FCC, not the FTC, that regulates network management practices,”Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Dallas-based AT&T, said in an e-mail.

The company’s “maximum bit rate” program, sometimes called throttling, temporarily reduces mobile data speeds for some users to prevent service degradation for all “by preventing heavy users of data from overwhelming the mobile network,” AT&T said in its filings. The program complies with FCC rules, AT&T says.

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