Tag Archives: Tom Wheeler

AT&T Fighting Fines For Throttling Customers’ Data

ATT Logo with a tightened belt around it

Despite the company’s recent success in gaining approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to complete its purchase of DirecTV, AT&T has suffered from a string of legal decisions and regulatory violations that have resulted in sizeable fines. Both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have taken aim at the telecom firm over what they claim are illegal and unethical practices related to AT&T’s data usage policies.

The FTC’s case began last October when the commission made clear that they were going to sue AT&T for “deceptive and unfair data throttling.” In particular, the lawsuit focuses on customers who have unlimited data plans on their mobile devices. AT&T discontinued the plans years ago, but around 20% of its customers have been grandfathered in and retain the cap-free data packages. However, according to the FTC’s suit, AT&T has actually been imposing a limit on these consumers. This has been occurring in two ways. For those customers with older 3G phone models, a 90% reduction of their speeds took place as soon as they hit 3GB of data during the monthly cycle, while those with LTE phones saw a similar reduction in their speeds after hitting 5GB per month. Ultimately, the crux of the FTC’s lawsuit is that such actions are in violation of the contract signed by unlimited data plan customers. While AT&T claims that no such violation exists, they have modified the language in their contracts to state that throttling will only occur if the user is connected to an overloaded cellular relay.

Around the same time that the FTC’s case got underway, the FCC saw an increase in the number of complaints from AT&T customers who were irritated that their connection speeds had been slowed down. This led the commission to accuse the telecom provider of violating a transparency rule that was part of the Open Internet Order passed in 2010. Although the FCC has known about AT&T’s data throttling policy for the last four years, it was only recently that the number of unhappy customers prompted Chairman Tom Wheeler to level a massive $100 million fine against the mobile service provider.

AT&T is not simply accepting its fate and has vowed to fight the $100 million fine in court, claiming that customers knew full well that their data speeds would be throttled after reaching a certain quota and that no harm came to customers as a result of the slowdown. There is no doubt that AT&T is going to stand its ground for as long as it can on the issue, knowing that the judge in the FTC case may cite the FCC’s actions as a precedent. The telecommunications conglomerate has filed a grievance against the FCC stating that the current fine is excessive and that, at most, AT&T should have to pay only $16,000, even though its policies were not illegal.




FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Claims Title II Reclassification Would Not Hurt Broadband Investment

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been warming up to the sound of Title II reclassification, following President Obama’s declaration of support for ‘common carrier’ reclassification on broadband companies.

Continue reading FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Claims Title II Reclassification Would Not Hurt Broadband Investment

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Expects To Be Sued Regardless of Net Neutrality Decision

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has expressed clear desire to create its own net neutrality plan, outside the realm of President Obama or telecom’s own plans.

Even though nothing is set in stone, it looks like Tom Wheeler is nearing towards a more stronger set of rules against broadband companies, but they might not fall under Title II common carrier reclassification.

In a new announcement on Friday, Tom Wheeler said that no matter the decision the FCC make, the telecoms will still sue the FCC. This came after reports said Wheeler was scared of fighting the telecom, due to lawsuits.

The FCC is certainly trying to keep the peace by making the net neutrality debate about helping both parties. The only issue is neither wants to meet in the middle, especially if it means the telecoms can still get away with anti-consumer practices.

Plenty have already called for Wheeler to resign, after his failures in sorting out net neutrality and the various mergers, even before the final decision has been made on these issues.

The next six months will be crucial for the FCC and the future of the Internet. Decisions on mergers between AT&T, DirecTV and Comcast, Time Warner Cable loom over the cable and wireless industries.

Net neutrality laws in the U.S. could change for better or worse, depending on how the FCC handles the issue. It might get even harder for the FCC to push anti-telecom issues with a Republican Congress set to rule in 2015.

Whatever the case, Tom Wheeler is either siding with the telecoms or the public, 81 percent of which want stronger net neutrality laws and 72 percent do not want Comcast and Time Warner Cable to merge.

AT&T Stops Investing In Fiber, Until FCC Makes Net Neutrality Decision

In a move to turn the tides, AT&T has stopped investing in high-speed fiber Internet, until the FCC makes a decision on net neutrality laws in the U.S.

The move comes after Chairman Tom Wheeler decided to postpone the net neutrality proposal until 2015, after the “hybrid” plan got destroyed by public advocacy groups and broadband companies.

AT&T has been investing in a few neighborhoods and states, to expand fiber speeds to 300Mbps and 1Gbps. This expansion is mostly in areas Google Fiber it thinking about entering, but either way it is a nice change of pace from the norm.

No Investment

AT&T has a large say in the net neutrality laws – it controls two of the largest networks, both on broadband and mobile. If the FCC enacts Title II reclassification (and it passes) this could be a big problem for the future of AT&T.

Fast-lanes, perma-cookies and other new technologies being developed as new revenue streams for broadband and wireless networks would be void.

Lack of investment in fiber might be critical right now, but once Title II is employed, it may bring more growth in the broadband market. It would force broadband companies to either fight for customers or lose them to the incoming wave of municipal broadband and fiber optic options.

ISPs Fight Back

Even with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler goes with President Obama and most of the Internet and reclassifies broadband companies under Title II common carrier, it is only half the fight.

AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other ISPs have all stated they will challenge this reclassification in court – already prepared to fight the FCC out of the net neutrality debate.

The public is on the FCC’s side; if it sticks to the plan most public advocacy groups are pushing. The issue is Tom Wheeler is searching for a middle ground, when realistically he must choose a side.

FCC Delays Net Neutrality Ruling Until 2015

After U.S. President Barack Obama announced his support for net neutrality and called for the FCC to implement Title II reclassification of both broadband and wireless companies, the FCC has decided to delay the ruling until 2015.

This is not the first delay to the FCC net neutrality ruling, the first coming after the overwhelming response of U.S. citizens to the proposed bill put forward by the FCC, allowing fast-lanes and other anti-consumer plans to go forward.

Continue reading FCC Delays Net Neutrality Ruling Until 2015

Obama Wants Broadband Services Reclassified As Utilities

U.S. President Barack Obama has made his claim before that he supports net-neutrality, but this claim has yet to be backed up with real progress, until now.

The President has sent an open letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, advising the agency to reclassify broadband companies as Title II common carrier “utilities”, similar to the telephone networks in the U.S.

Continue reading Obama Wants Broadband Services Reclassified As Utilities