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FCC fines AT&T $100 million, says customers were misled about 'unlimited' data plan

The FCC argues that AT&T misled customers by throttling back speeds once customers in unlimited plans reached a certain level of usage.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that it will fine AT&T $100 million for misleading consumers about its unlimited mobile data plans.

According to the FCC, AT&T slowed down data speeds for customers with unlimited data plans and didn't notify them.

The issue was AT&T offered unlimited data plans in 2007, but doesn't today. It grandfathered in unlimited data plan customers. The catch, according to the FCC, is that AT&T in 2011 capped maximum data speeds once they passed a quota within a billing cycle.

In a nutshell, the FCC's biggest beef is that AT&T wasn't transparent about the caps and misled customers. "Unlimited means unlimited," said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc in a press release.

The FCC fine was issued under the 2010 Open Internet Order, which is designed in part to encourage transparency from broadband providers.

Two commissioners of the FCC dissented on the fine and noted that the transparency rules are vague at best.

Although the investigation behind the AT&T fine is somewhat dated, the FCC ruling is worth noting since carriers such as T-Mobile are pushing unlimited plans to win share and putting the squeeze on larger players.