AT&T may have redefined the word “unlimited,” and not in the favor of its customers.
The nation’s second-largest cellular carrier allegedly slowed down the Internet service of about 3.5 million users under its unlimited data plan.
Thousands of users complained, and the Federal Trade Commission listened.
The FTC sued AT&T for allegedly “throttling” unlimited plans once consumers used the Internet too much.
AT&T has a lot at stake. It may have lost consumers anywhere from $300 million to over $1 billion or more.
After the first 18 days of each month, AT&T decided that users were using too much of its service and slowed it down to dial-up speed.
How slow is this?
Well with dial-up speed, it could take up to 10 minutes for today’s websites to load.
“The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement.
Ramirez said that this could result in money being repaid to AT&T customers who were affected by the throttling policy. When the FTC did its investigation on AT&T, it found that the company was aware that consumers saw throttling as inconsistent with the “unlimited” message, because it is.
Over the course of three years, AT&T misled customers about 25 million times. That could mean 25 million missed business opportunities, talking to family members across the globe and important emails.
The biggest issue is that consumers paid for unlimited data for the whole month and only received part of it.
When the throttling program began, the unlimited plan cost $30 a month, so about $1 a day.
Consumers had bad service during 12 of these days, so they were essentially robbed of $12 a month. When you multiply these $12 with the estimated 25 million instances, it equals $300 million placed into the hands of AT&T for subpar service.