Attention American USENET newsgroup subscribers: today marks the beginning of AT&T’s limited monthly data allotments for subscribers to its DSL and U-Verse broadband Internet services.
AT&T announced that it would be imposing the data caps last month and becomes the second American telecom company to do so after Comcast launched its own metering policy nearly three years ago. This comes on the heels of Virgin Media imposing bandwidth caps in the UK as well.
U-Verse — AT&T’s high-speed broadband, television and telephone network — now limits customers to 250 gigabytes of Internet usage each month. DSL users are capped at 150 GB. Customers who exceed the limits will have to pay $10 for each additional 50 GB.
Though typical broadband users don’t come close to approaching the caps now, the increase in average video consumption will undoubtedly cause a greater number of users to exceed their limits in the coming years. That could force broadband providers to raise their caps in the future if customers begin to complain.
To head off a backlash, AT&T is sending customers alerts when they reached 65%, 90% and 100% of their data allotment each month. The company is also giving customers an undefined grace period before it charges them for another 50 GB. AT&T also is allowing customers to check their data usage online.
AT&T is making a bandwidth meter available to all of its customers to track monthly usage at Myusage.att.com. There are numerous reports of customers, who haven’t been able to access the meter yet, but others have been more successful, and customer representatives have reportedly said the meter should be available to everyone by today. Once it’s available, it will also display usage from previous months, giving customers an idea of what’s in store for them.
Comcast had come under fire in 2007 for cutting off service to customers who consumed a large amount of bandwidth but refusing to provide those customers with information on how much bandwidth they were able to use. That led to accusations of Comcast cutting off access to certain services including USENET, an FCC enforcement action, and a net neutrality debate that continues today.
That year, Time Warner Cable also experimented with bandwidth caps, but a public backlash prompted the provider to scrap the test in April 2009. Time Warner took some heat because its caps were relatively low – between 5GB and 40GB. The company eventually announced it would also offer a 100GB “super tier” and unlimited service for $150 per month, but by then, Congress was already up in arms and interest groups were circulating online petitions against the caps.
Some Internet companies fed up with the state of American broadband are taking matters into their own hands. Google, for instance, is deploying a 1-gigabit-per-second network in Kansas City, Kansas, without any bandwidth cap or limiting access to any services such as USENET newsgroups.