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T-Mobile will pay a $48 million fine for throttling 'unlimited data' plans

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The FCC caught T-Mobile slowing down connections for heavy data customers — and now, it’s making the company pay for it. In a settlement announced today, T-Mobile agreed to pay $48 million to resolve an investigation into the company’s unlimited data plan.

T-Mobile revealed in 2015 that it was slowing down data for customers in the top 3 percent of data usage, typically translating to 17GB of data per month. The limitation was only revealed after numerous complaints, and came as a surprise to many users The same restriction was placed on MetroPCS customers, who operate on T-Mobile’s network.

According to the FCC, the problem isn’t the throttling, but the way T-Mobile marketed the plan. Marketing the system as an unlimited data plan was deceptive to customers, and a violation of the 2010 Open Internet transparency rules. "Consumers should not have to guess whether so-called ‘unlimited’ data plans contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps, and other material limitations," said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc in a statement.

Affected T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers will be eligible for 4GB of additional mobile internet data under the "Simple Choice MINT" plan, as well as a 20 percent discount on in-stock phone accessories. T-Mobile will pay for those benefits through a $35.5 million consumer benefit program, with an additional $7.5 million paid directly to the US Treasury and $5 million in services and equipment provided to American schools.