In what is surely a coincidence and has nothing to do with a lawsuit by the FTC, AT&T has re-jigged its policy of limiting data transfer speeds for heavy users who buy to its ‘unlimited’ data plans.
The said on Friday that it will only throttle heavy users if they are in tightly packed areas and alongside other subscribers.
Customers began noticing the policy change on Wednesday, which now reads:
“As a result of the AT&T network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion.”
Prior to this any customer exceeding the 3GB mark would have their connection slowed to a crawl, regardless of where they were.
That’s still a possibility under the reworked policy but the blanket throttling will only happen to customers on unlimited data plans if they cross the 5GB of data over 30 days mark.
The timing of the changes, which appear more consumer friendly, is highly interesting. The carrier has a lawsuit from the FTC on its plate, over this very issue. The FTC alleges the company failed to properly disclose its throttling policies that such acts are an “unfair act or practice”.
AT&T could face heavy fines for its throttling policies if the FTC prevails in the case. The court could also issue a permanent injunction preventing it from doing the same in future, which would effectively outlaw the practice across the industry.
The move by AT&T shows the FTC gets it and isn’t afraid to let the telecoms know it. It’s measures on Net Neutrality have been aggressively opposed by telcos, showing they are indeed consumer oriented. The FTC appears to be one of the rare federal regulators, unlike the SEC, that actually regulates as opposed to rubber stamps.