FCC Slaps AT&T with $100 Million Fine for Throttling Internet Users

FCC Slaps AT&T with $100 Million Fine for Throttling Internet Users

Reuters/Mike Blake
By Andrew Lumby

The FCC on Wednesday slapped AT&T hard, proposing a $100 million fine — the largest the agency has ever handed down — for what it described as the phone and broadband giant’s misleading customers about its “unlimited” data plans.

At issue is the practice of “throttling,” or limiting download and upload speeds for some users on those data plans.

Related: John Oliver Just Won the Net Neutrality Battle

AT&T’s throttling policy had been in place since 2011, according to an FCC statement, and it led to a barrage of complaints to the agency. AT&T targeted users who surpassed a certain data threshold over the course of a month, and consumer complaints argued that AT&T’s limiting of download speeds was directly at odds with the nature of the marketed “unlimited” plans.

AT&T, which is also pursuing government approval of its pending acquisition of DirecTV, says it will “vigorously dispute” the decision. In a statement, the company said that its practice is well documented and shared by many — if not all — service providers, and a legitimate method of managing their network’s resources. The FCC disagrees, claiming that AT&T violated transparency rules by falsely calling these plans unlimited.

"Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide,” said FCC Chair Tom Wheeler in a statement. “The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure."

Related: The Net Neutrality Debate Explained

AT&T has 30 days to respond before the FCC issues its final decision.

The Federal Trade Commission sued AT&T for $3.5 million in October last year, for the same alleged violation. That case is still ongoing.

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”