FTC vs AT&T Over Unlimited Data: About to Enter a World of Pain

Remember that time when the FTC sued AT&T for throttling speeds on quote unlimited unquote data plans? Here’s a refresher: AT&T exclusively carried the original iPhone, but in the name of drawing customers, offered an unlimited data plan. If one actually tries to use data in an unlimited fashion, speeds can plummet because AT&T’s idea of unlimited, well, it has some limits.

That’s when the FTC stepped in, suing AT&T because this is not ‘Nam, there are rules. AT&T is calling foul, insisting the case be dismissed because the FTC is over the line.

Here’s where it gets interesting: AT&T claims that its shiny new classification as a Title II Common Carrier is why it is exempt. As a common carrier there’s no reason for the FTC to bother with AT&T since it is the FCC that handles common carriers. AT&T wants the case dismissed so it can go back to the zesty enterprise of selling not really unlimited data plans until the right government agency puts a halt to it. Or more to the point, AT&T wants to claim common carrier in one court while fighting it in another.

Well, sometimes, there’s a man. And in this case, that man is California District Court Judge Edward Chen. He has ruled that since AT&T was not a common carrier when the suit was filed, it will go on as planned. He also pointed out that since the suit was regarding disclosure of throttling, not whether or not it was fair, the suit is totally under the FTC’s purview. In other words, AT&T's motion was just bush league psych-out stuff. 

They say sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. This time the bear, in the form of Edward Chen, got the best of the mobile carrier. Obviously AT&T is unhappy about the ruling and says it will appeal. It remains to be seen whether "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion man" will be the basis of the appeal.

[H/t to The Consumerist and The Dude.]