Today, the Federal Trade Commission initiated a complaint against AT&T claiming that the company misled consumers by throttling “unlimited” data plans, reducing customer data speeds by up to 90 percent. Public Knowledge commends the FTC for penalizing this deceptive industry practice but emphasizes that today’s action demonstrates the complementary roles of the FTC and the FCC.
Consumer protection in broadband includes holding companies to their promises, but it also involves putting rules in place for AT&T and competitors to follow to protect consumers. FCC rules would have prevented this behavior from happening in the first place, and Title II of the Communications Act remains the best way for the FCC to legally ground such rules. Not only does Title II provide clear authority for the FCC to promote an open Internet, truth in billing, universal service, and other matters, but it also provides a path for the FCC to ensure that communications carriers deliver the service customers are paying for.
The FCC and the FTC are not either/or options. While there are legal principles in place to prevent the FTC and FCC from taking duplicative or contradictory actions, nothing prevents the FTC from stepping in when FCC rules are silent.
The following can be attributed to Michael Weinberg, Vice President of Public Knowledge:
“No company should promise one thing and deliver another. We support the FTC in stepping up to prevent data throttling of ‘unlimited’ plans. However, basing consumer protections in Title II is still the best way to prevent these deceptive actions, and the FCC is still the best agency for this job.”
The FTC’s action follows an August letter Public Knowledge sent to AT&T and other carriers initiating complaints accusing them of violating the FCC’s open internet transparency rules.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.