AT&T drops court challenge to FTC's authority

AT&T drops court challenge to FTC's authority
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AT&T is dropping a court challenge to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority over telecommunications providers, ending a legal battle that critics said could have left the post-net neutrality internet with little oversight.

In a court filing on Wednesday, AT&T’s lawyers said that the telecommunications giant would not be petitioning the Supreme Court for a review of a federal appeals court decision that said the FTC had jurisdiction over them.

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“We have decided not to seek review by the Supreme Court, to focus instead on negotiating a fair resolution of the case with the Federal Trade Commission,” AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said in a statement to The Hill.

In February, the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned an earlier ruling that said the FTC couldn’t take action against companies that engage in the telecommunications business because telecom companies are common carriers with less legal liability.

Critics worried that if AT&T had challenged the 9th Circuit decision and won at the Supreme Court, it would have left a major gap in regulatory oversight. All companies would have to do to avoid FTC enforcement action would be to operate a small telecommunications business.

Compounding those concerns is the fact that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is eliminating its own oversight over internet providers by repealing its net neutrality rules. AT&T and other net neutrality opponents argued that the FTC, and not the FCC, should be in charge of policing internet providers, but at the same time AT&T was arguing in court that the FTC had no jurisdiction over them.

The case began in 2014, when the FTC sued AT&T for misleading customers about its unlimited data plans. The agency alleged that AT&T failed to tell those customers that their data would be throttled after they used a certain amount during a billing period.

Updated at 2:52 p.m.