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Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Face $10M Fine for Misleading “Unlimited” Plans

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has imposed a $10 million fine on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile for misleading consumers with their "unlimited" data plans. The penalty is a result of the commission's investigation into these top wireless carriers, which found that they had deceptively advertised and sold "unlimited" plans without adequately disclosing important limitations.


Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have long promoted their unlimited data plans as offering limitless high-speed data for a fixed monthly fee. However, the fine print of these plans often included provisions that allowed the carriers to slow down data speeds after a certain threshold was reached, typically around 22GB for Verizon and T-Mobile, and 50GB for AT&T. This practice, known as "throttling," effectively meant that the plans were not truly unlimited, as advertised.

FCC's Investigation

In 2015, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules that required internet service providers to disclose accurate information about their network management practices, including any limitations on data speeds. The rules also prohibited ISPs from engaging in "unjust or unreasonable discrimination" in their treatment of internet traffic. While the FCC's net neutrality rules were repealed in 2017, the commission retained the authority to enforce transparency requirements.

The FCC's investigation into Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile's unlimited data plans found that the carriers had failed to adequately disclose their throttling practices to consumers. As a result, many customers were led to believe that they were purchasing plans with unlimited high-speed data, only to experience significant slowdowns once they reached a certain usage threshold.

Misleading Advertisements

The FCC noted that the carriers' advertisements for their unlimited plans were deceptive, as they did not clearly disclose the throttling thresholds or the potential for slower data speeds. This lack of transparency led to consumer confusion and frustration, as many customers were not aware of the limitations imposed on their "unlimited" plans.

Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have defended their practices by arguing that the slowdowns were necessary to manage network congestion and ensure a quality experience for all users. However, the FCC found that the carriers had not adequately informed consumers about these practices, in violation of the transparency requirements.

The $10 Million Penalty

In response to the investigation's findings, the FCC has imposed a $10 million fine on each of the three carriers, totaling $30 million. The commission stated that the penalty serves as a deterrent to future violations and sends a clear message to the industry that misleading advertising will not be tolerated.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel emphasized the importance of transparency in the telecommunications industry, stating, "Unlimited means unlimited. This $30 million settlement sends a clear message: the FCC is committed to ensuring that broadband providers are transparent to consumers about the services they offer."

The fine represents a significant enforcement action by the FCC, signaling the commission's willingness to hold major telecommunications companies accountable for deceptive practices.

Impact on Consumers

The FCC's action against Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile is a win for consumer protection. By holding the carriers accountable for their misleading advertising practices, the commission has sent a strong signal that transparency and truth in advertising are essential in the telecommunications industry.

For consumers, the $10 million fine imposed on each carrier serves as a reminder to carefully review the terms and conditions of unlimited data plans before making a purchasing decision. While these plans may offer attractive features, such as unlimited high-speed data, it is crucial to understand any potential limitations or restrictions that may impact the overall user experience.

Moving forward, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will be required to provide clear and accurate disclosures about any throttling practices associated with their unlimited plans. By doing so, consumers can make informed choices about their wireless service without being misled by deceptive advertising.

The Future of Unlimited Plans

The FCC's enforcement action against Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile is likely to have a lasting impact on the way carriers market and sell unlimited data plans. With the $10 million penalty serving as a cautionary tale, wireless providers may be more inclined to be transparent about any limitations or restrictions associated with their unlimited plans in the future.

In addition to the FCC's actions, consumer advocacy groups have also been vocal in calling for greater transparency and accountability in the wireless industry. By raising awareness about deceptive advertising practices, these groups are helping to empower consumers to make more informed decisions about their wireless service.

As the telecommunications landscape continues to evolve, it is essential for carriers to prioritize transparency and honesty in their advertising and sales practices. Unlimited data plans can offer significant value to consumers, but only if they are marketed and sold truthfully, without hidden limitations that detract from the user experience.


The $10 million fine imposed on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile by the FCC underscores the importance of transparency and truth in advertising, particularly when it comes to unlimited data plans. The commission's enforcement action sends a clear message that deceptive practices will not be tolerated, and that carriers must provide accurate disclosures about any limitations or restrictions associated with their plans.

Moving forward, consumers can expect to see more transparent marketing and sales practices from wireless carriers, as the industry grapples with the implications of the FCC's penalty. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that consumers are fully informed about the terms and conditions of their unlimited data plans, allowing them to make well-informed decisions about their wireless service.

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