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US court set to rehear AT&T "throttling" case

10 May 2017 | James Pearce

A US court is set to rehear claims that AT&T illegally throttled data sent through its mobile division brought by the Federal Trade Commission.

AT&T logoThe Californian court dismissed the data throttling case last year, but has now said it will reconsider it before the full 11-judge panel, according to Reuters.

The FTC has accused AT&T of deception in the original lawsuit, which was first filed in 2014, of reducing internet speeds for customers using unlimited data plans once they had used a certain amount of data. 

The regulator claimed that AT&T had failed to inform consumers, some of whom experienced speeds up to 90% slower than they normally would experience. The claim was denied by the telco.

In August, the court dismissed the lawsuit, saying AT&T was not subject to FTC jurisdiction. The ruling was linked to net neutrality laws introduced under the Obama administration which saw similar issues fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission because they qualified as “common carriers” under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.

Any ruling in favour of the FTC could see it take jurisdiction over privacy practices and data rules for telecoms operators, meaning the case is being closely watched by the industry. Currently, it is prevented by Congress from regulating common carriers.

"We have reviewed the court’s order, and we look forward to participating in the en banc review," AT&T said. The FTC declined to comment.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai did comment, however, saying the court’s decision would help him in his plans to repeal the net neutrality rules introduced by his predecessor.

Pai wants to strip back a number of rules which he has labelled as a serious mistake, including the 2015 Title II Order.

Pai said: “Today’s action by the Ninth Circuit is a big win for American consumers.  Now that the court’s prior decision is no longer effective, it will be easier for the FTC to protect consumers’ online privacy.  

“The court’s action also strengthens the case for the FCC to reverse its 2015 Title II Order and restore the FTC’s jurisdiction over broadband providers’ privacy and data security practices.  Indeed, it moves us one step closer to having the consistent and comprehensive framework for digital privacy that the American people deserve.”

Topics: AT&T, FTC, FCC, Ajit Pai, net neutrality, court, US, appeal, California