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AT&T Networking The Courts Wireless Networking

Court Refuses To Dismiss AT&T Throttling Case 105

Taco Cowboy sends news that a federal judge has shot down AT&T's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the company deceived customers by throttling their mobile data speeds. The suit was filed by the Federal Trade Commission after it found AT&T was charging customers for "unlimited" data plans, but then throttling their bandwidth once certain thresholds were reached. AT&T tried to have the suit thrown out by saying the FTC was exceeding its authority. Judge Edward Chen disagrees (PDF), saying jurisdiction for their conduct had not yet passed to the Federal Communications Commission when it occurred. The throttling affected "at least 3.5 million customers."
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Court Refuses To Dismiss AT&T Throttling Case

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think there a tons of folks that want to throttle AT&T

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Indeed! We are almost forced to use them due to various circumstances. They play billing games with surprise fees all the time. They fart fees. And their telemarketers keep calling us and won't get the clue that we don't want to talk to them.

      Competition is sorely needed in telecom. Oligopolies suck rotting eggs. I think I'd rather have "commie" gov't services than the current batch of clowns we have to choose from. Socialists have fewer telemarketers, at least, and they are too lethargic to add so many new

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 03, 2015 @11:40AM (#49398495)

        Pure socialism (which is not in itself a bad thing) when combined with players of the same moral fiber as those in the telecom industry creates exactly the problem that you are trying to avoid, except now you have to sue the government for change.

        Responsiveness to consumer needs comes along a curve drawn by the number of competitors. Monopolies are the worst, duopolies, almost as bad, I will argue quad-opolies as the inflection point and I'm surrounded by restaurants that will cook me anything they have ingredients for any time I want, so somewhere in the hundreds businesses become very accommodating.

        The four big telco's in the US are competitive more than they are cooperative. T-Mo (the Walmart of carriers) does disruptive shit to the others all the time and they have to at least pretend to have a matching game. No-Contracts was their latest. Previously, the cost of your phone was spread into your bill, but your bill didn't drop when your phone was paid for. So you were either under contract, or you were paying a $20 a month premium for using your old phone, win/win for the carrier. That sucked for the consumer, but it's how every one did it until, in the spirit of competition, one company decided to muck with the rules. The consumers won.

        I have my issues with all the carriers, but nation wide networks are a non-trivial investment and spectrum isn't infinite. I think 5 or 6 is all you could squeeze in, and I don't think you'd see much more benefit.

        We need law suits like this to succeed, so lying to the public has a serious cost. We can give all the damages to some nice charity, I don't need a $3 a month refund for 11 months of service, I need AT&T's marketing department to think next time, "this lie will be expensive."

        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          We need law suits like this to succeed, so lying to the public has a serious cost

          Based on our "inventive fee" experience, lawsuits couldn't keep up. They are quite creative in their ability and excuses to slap weird fees onto things. While being sued for Gimmick 7, they are already working on Gimmick 8 and 9.

          The most successful liars don't outright lie; they skillfully milk the boundary between truth and lie.

          • >

            The most successful liars don't outright lie; they skillfully milk the boundary between truth and lie.

            Telling the truth in a way that makes the listener decode what you say incorrectly is the best way.

        • Regarding the cost of infrastructure, in Mexico there is an experiment going on. They married the 700 Mhz band (previously used for TV) with the 20 thousand something kilometer fiber network owned by the Federal Electricity Commission (a government body, charged with the production and distribution of electricity), mostly dark, to create a national network which is being auctioned off. AT&T, for example, is one of bidders, but the catch is they can't sell services to the public; they must sell services

          • by Pikoro ( 844299 )

            This is essentially what we have in Japan with the FLETS system. All the infra is basically owned by one company, who lease it out to others. NTT, the company who owns the fiber, have their own ISP set up on their own fiber, but it is trivial to start your own ISP using their infra. They get a cut of every customer, but there are so many ISPs here that they compete on features since speed isn't really a factor when nearly every ISP can provide gigabit speeds.

            • It's not just Japan - much of Europe, UK, AU, NZ, SK, HK, SG... all use an "unbundled loop" model and for the most part it works pretty well - personally, I like it.

              There are some "open" networks in the US, but they are damn near impossible to get on to or use properly, in part because some of them have been built for the sake of being built - as far as I have been able to ascertain from a couple of those I've made inquiries for, they don't actually go anywhere (as in, they don't really reach end users in a

          • One problem with that sort of tiered service is getting problems addressed. So AT&T is selling services to Pedro's Laundromat and ISP, you get your connectivity from Pedro, and something goes wrong. AT&T has no responsibility towards you. It has some towards Pedro, but it's going to argue that it's Pedro's fault as long as it can.

            • That depends on how you define "problem".

              As it is, you call AT&T to get your line fixed because something's wrong (say, it's noisy and your DSL signal is weak). AT&T may or may not give a shit about you because all you are is residential customer #146190480112 valued at a whopping $50 a month.

              On the other hand, in a wholesale situation,the end user wouldn't be calling AT&T, they would be calling Pedro. Sure, Pedro has to raise the ticket, but Pedro has an SLA.and might be worth $5,000 or even $

            • "you get your connectivity from Pedro, and something goes wrong."

              That's between you and Pedro, not you and AT&T. Let Pedro duke it out with them. He's not going to let them screw him over or you'll take your business down the road to Shnycorp.

              The reality is that Pedro provides substantially better service for a couple of bucks more than Shinycorp

              Shinycorp do big nationwide advertising and low prices, by cutting deals with AT&T for lower quality of service and longer times to get onsite than AT&

        • by armanox ( 826486 )
          Which is a win for me - Verizon has lowered my bill by a fair amount per month for as long as I keep my old phones. Plus they recently doubled my data amount per month at no additional cost.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @10:51AM (#49398185) Homepage
    In what magistrate, what court or patrio-tastic american legal system in this foul year of our lord 2015 is it possible for the 38th largest corporation in the entire world to be forced to answer for their actions? This is america for christ sake, land where a corporation is a person! its homophobia enshrined in law as a manifestation of its unquestionable religious beliefs. If we're going to start with AT&T being forced to abandon its totally legal and fair court of arbitration for this disgusting "justice of the people" then whats next? Companies that cant commit wage theft and union busting? Christ its enough to make me lose my appetite this very instant and had it not been for my sizeable campaign contribution I would turn this bugatti right around and head back to the manor post-haste. But given as its always election season, and dogs will bark, I suppose ill entertain a morsel of caviar for whatever politician has me in gucci shoes this afternoon but I warn you america....you're making corporations feel very hurt and sad.

    Regards, The plutocracy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Coren22 ( 1625475 )

      I would love to see a class action lawsuit against all the companies that treat salaried workers as hourly when it benefits them, and salaried when i benefits them.

      • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @12:47PM (#49398963)

        OT, but related to your comment: I have been fighting battles with companies in the bay area who want to hire people but only if they can sleaze by via 'contract to hire' (really, its a misspelling: the correct spelling is 'contract to FIRE'). this saves them 3 or 6months of benefits, all the while treating you like an employee (long hours, occasional unpaid weekends, take your work laptop home (yes, contractors are being told this).

        companies know its all about denying benefits to americans. mostly its us older guys (ie, the ones who need health insurance the most). and they try to convince you its about 'try before you buy' but that's just a stupid lie. I've known contractors stuck on that role for way more than 6mos. look employers, if it takes you even 3 months to know if the guy you have working for you is good or not, I'd be surprised. 6mos? that's just a cost savings for YOU. lets push the benefits cost down on the employee for as long as we can.

        its because none of us in tech have unions anymore. there's no one to fight for our rights. sure, as a kid, you think you don't need them. come back in 20 or 30 yrs when you find that to be untrue for you. its not what you need NOW, its what all of us eventually need. WE NEED UNIONS. and yes, they can be evil, but companies are already the definition of modern evil. it takes a monster to fight a monster and lets have the 2 monsters fight each other rather than one of them fighting ME.

        and so, I spend the last 10 years doing contracts, unwillingly, since that is ALL that is offered to me. 30 yrs of software and hardware, doing lots of things, but I have 'dont give this guy a fulltime job with benfits' written all over my forehead. apparently.

        the overall name of the american game: become rich, screw everyone you can, deny you are doing anything ethically wrong. seems to be working for the elite. for the rest of us, life was better 20 or 30 yrs ago before all this 'deny you benefits ... becase we can!' shit started happening.

        • Contract work is by the hour. If you're not clocking your hours and getting overtime, you're doing it wrong.
        • by armanox ( 826486 )
          My benefits were far worse working union jobs then when I branched into non-union (systems administration). I won't name the union I worked in before I entered IT, but they were far worse then dealing with management directly. And to pick on your statement - the union bosses are just as elite as the people they're supposed to be against.
        • I would love to see the IRS enforce the rules they already have [irs.gov].
    • by DiEx-15 ( 959602 )
      Dear Plutocracy:

      LULZ.

      Love,
      The Rest Of The World
  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @10:54AM (#49398195)
    Isn't addressing accusations of fraud kinda their mandate?
    • Yes, but they thought they had bought their quota of senators and should not have to answer to the little people anymore.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Friday April 03, 2015 @11:12AM (#49398311)

      As I read it (but this is getting into some nitty-gritty agency-jurisdiction law I might misunderstand), the jurisdictional argument is about what "common carrier" status does for oversight. Telecommunications law gives the FCC exclusive authority to regulate common carriers, because they aren't quite normal market participants, but instead more like a regulated utility with special requirements that apply to them. So the FCC is tasked with drawing up those rules and overseeing them, and the FTC doesn't oversee them the way it would oversee other market participants.

      Mobile data did not used to be classified as a common-carrier service, but was reclassified recently (3 weeks ago, in fact). The court found: 1. The fact that AT&T provides a common-carrier mobile service doesn't mean that it automatically is immune from FTC jurisdiction in any mobile-related case. Instead it needs to show that the specific conduct in dispute is related to its provision of common-carrier telecommunications services, and therefore exclusively within FCC jurisdiction; 2. The specific conduct at issue here happened before the reclassification as common carrier, so the FTC properly has jurisdiction.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Ahhh AT&T, doesn't want to be classified as Common Carrier unless it helps them get out of a lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds.

        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Ahhh AT&T, doesn't want to be classified as Common Carrier unless it helps them get out of a lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds.

          Actually, they still don't wan to be. They argued to another court that the FCC didn't have the right to make them a common carrier.

          I think their goal was to get this case dismissed since they're a common carrier, and then get the controls of being a common carrier tossed since they aren't one.

          • by armanox ( 826486 )
            Yup, but ex post facto applies to this one, so they are tried by the laws that were in effect at at the time of the offence.
            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              Too bad estoppel doesn't apply. They when they use contradictory arguments, replay one of their earlier arguments in the new case, and hold them to the least favorable statement they've made.
  • Common Carrier? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PineHall ( 206441 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @10:57AM (#49398213)
    I find it interesting that these telecommunication companies want to be known as a Common Carrier only when it benefits them. They want it both ways.
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      I find it interesting that these telecommunication companies want to be known as a Common Carrier only when it benefits them. They want it both ways.

      I don't find it interesting that they want to read the rules in way that is most helpful to them whatever the situation is, most people want that.

      What I find interesting is that the think they can get away with an inconsistent characterization of who/what they are.

      • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

        Kind of like the tax/penalty for not having health insurance under the AHA? It was argued to the highest courts that it was a tax when it fit the argument, and at other times it was argued as a penalty when it fit the argument. The government got away with it, so why not business too?

        In the end, the people always get screwed.

        • I got one better. I actually saw a lawyer argue that a dead man was a worthless bum who was so frivolous with his income that he was a burden to the family and that the same man was the primary bread winner and the loss of his income had devastating effects on the family well being all in the same case and within 2 hours of each position. It was in a case to settle claims on his estate. A guy argued he was owed money from the deceased and he also left him assets in the will. The assets claim got the worthle

    • They want it both ways.

      And we do our part by giving it to them. Gotta stop buying their crap products and stop reelecting their 'preferred' candidates, otherwise this will go on indefinitely.

  • I'm curious about what their reasoning is behind the throttling. Does providing the service become less profitable after a certain threshold of usage is reached? (Meaning there is a real cost-per-bit AT&T pays) Does this throttling preserve the fairness of access for all users because the network could not handle more capacity? Is it a matter of not wanting this particular service to compete with other AT&T offerings? Would it defeat a charade of some artificial cost being exploited?
    • I believe the real reason behind the throttling is to harass you into switching to a metered plan where they can charge you for going over your cap.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      They do it because they can. It's as simple as that.
    • The reasoning is actually quite simple.

      Once your speeds are throttled down to dial-up levels, the majority of users will cease using the service until their speeds are restored.
      ( Can you imagine loading web-pages of today on the equivalent of a 56k modem ? The Ads alone would make it impossible. )

      Thus, X users not utilizing Y bandwidth equates to more available bandwidth to oversell to other customers without having to upgrade the infrastructure. It's far cheaper to save bandwidth by throttling users than

  • by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @11:49AM (#49398561)

    Internet / telecoms companies really do seem to view their customers as enemies.

    15 years ago in the UK there were dozens of broadband startups and big-name companies advertising "unlimited" broadband and then throttling you if you went over a couple of gigs. I don't think a single one of them got hauled through the courts for it. The biggest one, British Telecom, had their throttling exposed by a primetime TV show, and they just breezed on, lying to customers, untouchable.

  • It's all being groomed for appeal, never to be actually resolved.

  • AT&T is not the only provider to pull this shady mob tactic of offering "unlimited" Internet while throttling users after certain thresholds. They should all be sued for this, and every "unlimited" plan subscriber should be compensated. I personally have expressed my frustration with this to T-Mobile, so I ask - why is AT&T the only carrier being sued about this? Surely if they lose this battle, it should open up cases against the rest, right?

    • I personally have expressed my frustration with this to T-Mobile

      Why? They sell unlimited data with varying LTE quotas (after which, they make it clear you'll receive 2g speeds), and they sell unlimited LTE. If you buy unlimited LTE there is no throttling (don't take my word for it, I'll let my 30+GB/mo usage do the talking) and if you buy one of the plans that includes an LTE quota, you get an unthrottled connection until that quota is used up; and popular streaming services don't count toward that quota (or get throttled once you exceed it).

      They advertise what they'r

    • Well, comcast used to give you "unlimited" and then instead of throttling you they just gave you the boot. Not sure which is worse.
  • Once Washington State gets on the case, you know the corporations quake in their socks and sandals.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    (Light, Lite, Fat Free, Low Cal, Reduced Fat, etc) These are all regulated terms in the food industry. No reason not to regulate similar terms in the information services industry. If "unlimited" is not truly unlimited then it should be defined as such by some sort of industry authority. Obviously "unlimited" would be truly unlimited, but then they would need new terms like "unlimited data" (no speed limit), "no restrictions" (will have restrictions), "unlimited speed" (data limit), "dynamic connection" (B

  • That's the best AT&T's vaunted legal strategists could come up with?

    "You're not the boss of me, FTC!"

    /facepalm

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