In the wireless industry, the definition of "unlimited" is not quite concrete in the views of some, with carriers walking a fine line between what is really unlimited, which potentially opens themselves up to losing customers to competitors that are offering unlimited plans, or having customers abuse their networks. At one point, AT&T found themselves in the crosshairs of authorities because of this complex balancing act. They offered unlimited data plans, but customers were left unaware that their speeds would be knocked down to near-unusable levels after they had used a certain amount of data, the threshold for which has changed a few times since this saga began in 2011. A lawsuit brought forth by the Federal Trade Commission seemed to be the climax of the issue, with AT&T having made multiple motions to have it dismissed as they fought it down the years, but today, the final incarnation of the suit seems to be gone for good.
After getting through a class action suit of this sort once before, AT&T still found themselves on the hook with authorities. On Monday, however, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California ruled to throw out the FTC's lawsuit, close to two years in the making in this instance, and ordered any involved lower courts to do the same. The FTC would have otherwise had a valid case, but AT&T argued that they could be termed a "common carrier", and thus be exempt from the laws that practices such as not telling customers about the throttling would fall under. With the appeals court behind them, AT&T's motion has settled a hairy and long-running court battle with the powers that be, though the saga is not quite over yet.
Last year, the FCC got in on the action, proposing a fine of $100 million against AT&T over the matter. While throttling high-consumption customers to free up network resources is acceptable, AT&T is not the only carrier that does this in some form, as T-Mobile, for example, deprioritizes customers at 23GB in a month. Their devices are still capable of full speeds, but their traffic is then set at a lower priority when weighed against the large amount of other people on their local network, meaning they will typically see slower speeds during peak hours or in crowded areas, but usually nothing unusable. As things stand right now, the FCC is still looking to fine AT&T the proposed $100 million despite AT&T's past formal objections to the fine. No dates are set, for now, for the case to move forward.