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.