AT&T has reached an “agreement in principle” to settle a long-running class-action lawsuit over allegations that it slowed the broadband connections of subscribers who purchased unlimited data.
News of the potential settlement was revealed in papers filed Thursday with U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco.
Terms of the deal are expected to be finalized within 80 days.
Assuming the deal moves forward, it will resolve a lawsuit dating to 2015, when California resident Marcus Roberts and other consumers accused AT&T of selling them “unlimited” data, but throttling them after they hit a monthly cap ranging from 3 GB to 5 GB.
From 2011 until 2015, AT&T allegedly throttled more than 3.5 million customers with "unlimited" data plans. (The company subsequently revised its throttling practices, and now only slows down "unlimited" subscribers who exceed either 50 GB or 22 GB in a month, and only when the network is congested.)
AT&T initially convinced Chen that the lawsuit by Roberts and the other consumers belonged in arbitration, given that AT&T's subscriber agreements require arbitration of all disputes.
But Chen reconsidered in 2018, after the California Supreme Court ruled against enforcing an arbitration agreement in a separate matter.
An AT&T spokesperson stated that the company disputes the allegations, but “elected to settle rather than continuing to engage in drawn out litigation.”
The spokesperson added that the company was “fully transparent” with customers, “providing notice in multiple ways and going well beyond the FCC’s disclosure requirements.”
In addition to the class-action lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission prosecuted AT&T for allegedly duping unlimited subscribers. Last November, the company agreed to resolve that matter by refunding $60 million to consumers.
The Obama-era Federal Communications Commission also initiated proceedings against AT&T, proposing a $100-million fine for its alleged failure to transparency disclose broadband practices.
The current Republican-controlled FCC dropped the prosecution three years ago.