by Brian Fung
By now, you've probably heard that the Federal Trade Commission is suing AT&T for how it treats its unlimited data customers. Despite paying for an unlimited plan, these subscribers had their mobile Internet slowed to dial-up speeds, or "throttled," once AT&T decided they had surfed the Web too much. If that sounds nonsensical to you, you're not alone: Tens of thousands of consumers have complained about the practice, saying "unlimited" should mean just that - without limits.
Just how big a deal is this? At the very least, we're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in potential losses to consumers. Although federal regulators haven't disclosed how much they're seeking in damages from AT&T, we can do some math to put a rough dollar value on AT&T's throttling practices. I asked a number of economists, antitrust lawyers and former FTC officials familiar with the process of calculating damages to help give a rough idea of the money that may be at stake here.