AT&T's Broadband Meter Kicks Into Gear

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News Posted: Sun, May 1 2011 5:14 PM
Back in early March, we covered news that AT&T was instituting broadband meters after years of providing unlimited service. For standard DSL customers, 'unlimited' now means 150GB per month, while U-verse subscribers have a higher cap of 250GB/s. AT&T claims that these caps are necessary due to the fact that a small number of customers consume a huge amount of bandwidth.

"AT&T has experienced a dramatic increase in the amount of data that is sent and received over its wireline broadband networks.  This dramatic increase is driven primarily by a small fraction of our customers.  In fact, the top 2% of customers use about 20% of the total capacity on our network.  A single high traffic user can utilize the same amount of data capacity as 19 typical households.  Lopsided usage patterns can cause congestion at certain points in the network, which can slow Internet speeds and interfere with other customers' access to and use of the network."

AT&T provides a web utility for viewing your additional usage; a screenshot of the author's usage for the month of April is shown below:


AT&T intends to pursue a sort of three-strikes policy. 
In the following months, we will send you additional notices each month when your usage exceeds 65%, 90% and 100% of your monthly usage allowance.  If you exceed your monthly allowance a second time, AT&T will send you a notice advising you that the next time you exceed your allowance - the third time - you will be billed $10 for each 50 GB of data over your allowance.

This Isn't About Network Traffic:

We're skeptical that AT&T's new bandwidth caps have anything to do with traffic shaping or maintaining QOS. Bandwidth caps are a poor way to deal with network congestion—they're unpopular with customers, and they don't address the fact that bandwidth loads occur at certain peak hours. There's no proof that capping monthly bandwidth leads to any sort of change in a person or household's usage at peak.

If AT&T actually wanted to save bandwidth, they'd be throttling certain kinds of traffic and using packet shaping. Granted, this can backfire with customers as well--Comcast took a lot of heat for it once upon a time—but at least throttling/packet shaping attempts to directly treat the issue.

The gap between U-Verse and regular customers is also frustrating, given that there are those of us who live in places where U-Verse isn't available (or those who don't want it). The 100GB difference is a none-too-subtle shove in the direction of signing up for AT&T's own rich multimedia services. Such caps also impact the attractiveness of services like GoogleTV—bandwidth hungry families are less likely to buy such products if they come with a $20-$30 surcharge from their Internet provider.

At least one of us at Hot Hardware will be leaving AT&T as a result of this change, though we'll be surprised if consumers in general raise a ruckus.
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WassonC replied on Sun, May 1 2011 8:32 PM

Bye AT&T I am now looking elsewhere. Are there any ISP's out there that want my money? As long as it is unlimited service and I am not a slave to a meter check you got my business.

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Marco C replied on Sun, May 1 2011 8:44 PM

This makes me want to switch on principal alone, but my only other option is a far inferior product.  grr.

Marco Chiappetta
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AT&T customers, like myself, can go HERE to check current and historical internet usage. I've stayed under the 150GB per month cap, so I don't object, but I don't stream or download movies. My usage has been from a low of 10.43 GB to a high of 94.63 GB per month. That 94.63 GB month was when my son downloaded a bunch of games after he upgraded his PC's hardware and did a Win7 reinstall.


News:
If AT&T actually wanted to save bandwidth, they'd be throttling certain kinds of traffic and using packet shaping.

AT&T already does throttle certain kinds of traffic. Whenever SuperRob downloads via torrent our connection slows down to near dial-up speed. Fortunately he hasn't done this for a while. 


 

Marco C:

This makes me want to switch on principal alone, but my only other option is a far inferior product.  grr.

I have the option of Time-Warner cable instead of AT&T, and I may go that route if I need to. What does your monthly usage look like, Marco?

 

 SPAM-posters beware! ®

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comcast placed a cap on us a long time ago but its 250 gb a month im alright with it i can stay under that

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Joel H replied on Mon, May 2 2011 8:52 AM

SuperDave,

Meant to link that; thanks for reminding me. That's my own usage graph in the image above--I'll be leaving as well.

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It makes me want to leave ATT as well but my only other option is Comcast Cable which costs 3 times as much as my DSL... and also has a cap. U-Verse is not available in my city which is a major city because the power company is fighting the placement of the refrigerator sized VRAD boxes that house the equipment. Yeah for choice...

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HHGrrl replied on Mon, May 2 2011 11:10 PM

I don't have AT&T, but I still don't like this. It discourages people from signing up for services such as Google TV and other streaming services which in turn, can affect us all.

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