Cable, telecom and internet service providers in the U.S. have often been at odds with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in recent times. The telecom regulator under the chairmanship of Mr. Tom Wheeler, already has its hands full preparing for the 600 MHz incentive auctions and has already issued numerous directives to the competing service providers to keep them in line. Of course, the FCC has also had to fine a number of these companies over the past couple of years for allegedly resorting to business practices that it said were in violation of its policies. Now it looks like AT&T has fallen foul of the regulatory authority, as the company has reportedly been asked to pay over $170,000 for allegedly overcharging two school districts in Florida for its phone services.
While AT&T has officially released a statement protesting its innocence, the FCC, on its part, says that the company has received undeserved subsidies worth $63,760 for providing telecom services to the Orange and Dixie Counties in The Sunshine State between 2012 and 2015. According to a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) issued against AT&T by the FCC, the company is required to not only pay back the amount in question, but also fork out an additional $106,425 as fines payable to the U.S. government for failing to abide by the regulator’s E-Rate program, which entitles schools and libraries to receive subsidized telecommunication services. The company apparently violated the ‘lowest corresponding price rule’ by charging the two aforementioned school districts prices that were “magnitudes higher than many other customers in Florida”.
If the FCC’s findings are to be believed, not only did AT&T overcharge Orange and Dixie counties for its services, it also apparently falsified its compliance with the E-rate program in the forms it submitted to the FCC every year. It remains to be seen how this case pans out, but as it stands now, AT&T has rejected all charges against it, claiming that it has played by the rules in its dealings with the school districts in question. With neither party willing to back down from their conviction that they’re on the right side of the law on this issue, the case well may end up in the courts if legal experts are to be believed.