The Federal Communications Commission announced that wireless carrier T-Mobile will is the latest carrier to be caught throttling heavy data using customers who subscribe to the companies “unlimited” data plans, without adequately informing the customers of this policy. The settlement was reached between the two parties, in a case where the FCC accused T-Mobile of violating the Commission’s Open Internet Transparency Rules, which were established in 2010. As a result T-Mobile has agreed to pay $48 Million in penalties and improve its disclosures and notification policies.
The problems for T-Mobile started when the FCC began receiving complaints from customers of T-Mobile, and its subsidiary MetroPCS that their unlimited data plans were being “de-prioritized”, or slowed. It was revealed that T-Mobile has a policy that the top 3% of data users will have their data slowed during peak usage times, with the slowdown beginning around 17 GB of data usage. The real problem is not the throttling itself as much as it is the fact that T-Mobile made great efforts to advertise its plans as “unlimited”, but did not make much of an effort to inform consumers of the “top 3% policy”
As part of the settlement T-Mobile will pay the US treasury $7.5M and will put together a 35M customer benefit program where affected customers will be eligible for 4GB of free data, or a 20% discount on any phone accessory. In addition T-Mobile must invest around 5 million into programs that help economically disadvantaged students gain access to technology.