FCC Fines AT&T $100 Million for Violating Transparency Rule

The Commission has released a Notice of Apparent Liability and Forfeiture Order issuing a record-breaking forfeiture of $100,000,000 against AT&T for its apparent, willful and repeated violation of Section 8.3 of the Commission’s rules, known as the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule.  This release further demonstrates the new Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc’s commitment to provide “vigorous enforcement” and serves as a good reminder for all companies to review their policies and assess their compliance with the Open Internet rules currently in effect.

AT&T’s violation concerns the Transparency Rule that went into effect in 2011 per the 2010 Open Internet Order.  AT&T’s violation does not fall under the adopted Enhanced Transparency Rule adopted this year that is still subject to OMB approval.  The Commission’s 2010 Transparency Rule requires providers of broadband Internet Access Services, including mobile broadband Internet access providers, to effectively disclose their network management practices, network performance, and commercial terms of service, among other things.

The Commission finds that AT&T violated the rule by:

  • using the misleading and inaccurate term “unlimited” to label a data plan that was in fact subject to significant speed restrictions after a customer used a set amount of data; and
  • failing to disclose the express speed reductions that it applied to “unlimited” data plan customers once they hit a specified data threshold.

In addition to paying the $100 million fine, AT&T is required to come in to compliance with the 2010 Transparency Rule.  AT&T must correct any misleading and inaccurate statements about its unlimited data plan, issue a new disclosure statement, and allow customers currently under the contract to cancel their plans without penalty. If you have any questions regarding the scope of these rules, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the TLP Team.

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