AT&T Says Wireless Customers Should Have Predicted Throttling Program

AT&T's wireless customers who were throttled for consuming too much data weren't harmed by the slowdowns, the telecom says in new court papers.

The company adds that people who signed up for “unlimited” data plans should have known that the company might throttle them if they exceeded a monthly cap.

AT&T makes these assertions in new court papers outlining its defense to charges by the Federal Trade Commission, which is suing AT&T for allegedly duping consumers by offering them “unlimited” data plans, but throttling them when they exceeded a maximum monthly allotment.

“Most unlimited data customers continue to use their service, and in many instances continue to access huge amounts of data, even after their service speeds have been temporarily reduced,” AT&T claims in an answer to the FTC's complaint.

The company goes on to say that the FTC's claims should be dismissed “because consumers have not suffered any substantial injury or damage as a result of any alleged conduct.”

AT&T adds that consumers with unlimited data plans signed up for those contracts even though they “had reason to anticipate the possibility” that they would be throttled.

“Most of these customers renewed their contracts anyway,” AT&T says in its response, which was filed on Tuesday with U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco.

The telecom also contends that its throttling plan -- which it refers to in court papers as the “maximum bit rate,” or MBR, program -- helps manage network congestion. “Without MBR, all of AT&T's customers could have faced unpredictable service disruptions and quality degradation as the congested network was increasingly overburdened by data usage of a minority of users,” AT&T says.

AT&T began slowing down unlimited users in 2011. Since then, the company has throttled more than 3.5 million customers, according to the FTC.

The company implemented the program soon after introducing “tiered” billing plans, which require customers to pay for a monthly allotment of data. The wireless provider still allows longtime users who previously had unlimited plans to avoid pay-per-byte billing, but reserves the right to slow them down after they hit a cap. Currently, that cap comes to 3GB a month for customers on the 3G and HSPA+ networks, and 5 GB a month for people using the LTE network.

3 comments about "AT&T Says Wireless Customers Should Have Predicted Throttling Program".
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  1. LLoyd Berry from Moving In Media, April 30, 2015 at 4:50 p.m.

    I'm sorry - I know my english is not that good but how are the words "Unlimited" , "Cap"  and Throttle come to mean the same?  So if a water company sells me water that is unlimited, I should only expect 3 to 5 gallons a month?

    In the article  "The company adds that people who signed up for “unlimited” data plans should have known that the company might throttle them if they exceeded a monthly cap."

  2. Nitin Narang from mediaentertainmentinfo, May 1, 2015 at 2:38 p.m.

    More of this is coming as video consumption rises on mobile.  Data services will be the key growth area for Service providers as TV services see no growth or get thiner. 

  3. William Perry from Perry Media, May 2, 2015 at 12:11 a.m.

    AT&T is famous for failing to tell customers any or all of the details of the plans they sell.  I recently went into an AT&T store and was told by the store manager that I could switch from my regular AT&T internet service to Uverse internet service, which would lower my bill from $54 per month to $41 per month.  I was NOT told by the store MANAGER that there would be a $199 charge for new equipment (a new router) and a home call from an AT&T service guy to install same.  Nor was I told by the store MANAGER that my price break would only last for 12 months.  On top of that, when I made the switch, the store MANAGER failed to cancel out my previous "regular AT&T'" account, so I immediately began to receive two bills per month - - one for regular, one for Uverse.  It has taken me four months to straighten them out.  When I questioned the 12-month limit on the new price, I was told that if I call them at the end of the 12 month period, they "would work with me" on a new price for the next 12 months, as if I have time to stay on top of when the period will expire.  It's all up to you, folks.  Take notes when you deal with these jokers.

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