AT&T Argues Against FTC Reopening Throttling Case

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Not all that long ago, AT&T was called out by the Federal Trade Commission over their practices in regards to throttling the speeds of unlimited data subscribers who ran over a certain amount of data within a given month. The case was eventually dropped, but the FTC wasn't quite done with it. AT&T, along with all other mobile providers, had been reclassified from an "information service" to "common carrier" status, which fell outside of the FTC's jurisdiction. Just when AT&T thought the case was behind them, however, the FTC made a motion to reopen it. AT&T filed papers stating why their throttling should be considered to be outside of the FTC's purview, and asking the courts to uphold the dismissal put forth by an appellate court back in August.

The dismissal hinged on the fact that AT&T is a common carrier, and thus exempt from being answerable to the FTC. The acts of throttling that were brought up in the case, however, happened before the reclassification that put AT&T on the books as a common carrier. The FTC is arguing that this is sufficient to give them jurisdiction over the case, while AT&T is firing back that pressing a case against a common carrier, of any nature, is unprecedented in the FTC's history and clearly against the rules that the commission is forced to abide by. It should be noted that the party AT&T is petitioning to uphold the dismissal is the same appellate court that put the motion through in the first place.

The FTC is arguing that fully dropping the case against AT&T would set a dangerous precedent, and severely reduce the commission's ability to keep the likes of email providers and cable companies in line when their behavior harms consumers. Because of the unique nature of the case, AT&T is arguing that the FTC's stance is hyperbole, and that dropping this case will not place any implied limitations on the authority that the FTC lawfully wields. AT&T also argues that the FTC is still able to bring suit against "separate subsidiaries" that are associated with common carriers, such as large entities that provide services covered by the FTC alongside common carrier services.

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