The Federal Trade Commission will appeal a court decision that allows AT&T to avoid punishment for throttling the internet connections of their users with unlimited data plans.
A three-member judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit had ruled in favor of AT&T last month. This decision was against that of a District Court that went in favor of FTC. Now, the options for FTC include seeking a re-hearing of the case in front of the complete Ninth Circuit appeals court.
“We are going to be seeking a rehearing in that matter,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said to the US senators. Even if FTC fails at the appeals court, they can take the matter to the US Supreme court.
The victory of AT&T over FTC could have long-term effects on the capability of the agency to enforce consumer protection laws. Judges of Ninth Circuit sided with AT&T and said that AT&T is exempted from the oversight of FTC even if they are offering non-common carrier services. This has raised many questions about FTC being able to enforce their rules against other businesses that offer common carrier services.
Experts believe the ruling indicates that large companies with small common carrier businesses are still subject to the oversights of FTC. The ruling said that, “AT&T’s status as a common carrier is not based on its acquisition of some minor division unrelated to the company’s core activities that generates a tiny fraction of its revenue.” This may mean that FTC can still apply their rules to search division of Google, even though they offer fiber Internet separately.
Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit has not set any clear guidelines to find out the firms that may escape from the jurisdiction of FTC. The court decision has “significant ramifications for our jurisdiction,” Ramirez told senators.
AT&T has changed their throttling policies as the case begun. They have changed it so that the “unlimited data” users are throttled only when they use at least 22 GB data a month and fall in the range sector of some congested cell tower.