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T-Mobile to cough out $48m as fine for misleading data users



The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the Magenta Carrier in its crosshairs. In a ruling made public Wednesday, the agency announced that T-Mobile has agreed to pay $48 million over claims that it misled subscribers on its unlimited data plans.

At issue is T-Mobile’s “Data Prioritization,” or its policy of artificially limiting certain customers’ download and upload speeds. In 2015, the carrier admitted to throttling the “top 3 percent” of data users on its unlimited plans — those who used more than 17 GB of data in a bill cycle, typically — during times and near sites of network congestion.

That, it turns out, didn’t quite pass muster with the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Transparency rules — the agency accused the carrier of “insufficient” disclosure that didn’t “fully inform” consumers about limitations that might be imposed on their plans.

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Specifically, it faulted T-Mobile for failing to identify the amount of data that would trigger throttling, how the throttling would affect customers’ “ability to use the service,” and the degree to which their download speeds would be reduced.

“Customers should not have to guess whether so-called ‘unlimited plans’ contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps, and other material limitations,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. “When broadband providers are accurate, honest, and upfront in their ads and disclosures, consumers aren’t surprised and they get what they’ve paid for.”

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