Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages


Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages
Notices To Go Out This Week, Capping Begins May 2
Broadband Reports was the first to learn, and has confirmed with AT&T, that the company will be implementing a new 150GB monthly usage cap for all DSL customers and a new 250 GB cap on all U-Verse users starting on May 2. From March 18 to March 31, AT&T users are going to be receiving notices informing them of the change in the company's terms of service. AT&T spokesman Seth Bloom confirmed the news to Broadband Reports after we initially contacted him last Friday concerning a leaked copy of the upcoming user notification. According to Bloom, the cap will involve overage charges. However, only users who consistently exceed the new caps will have to deal with these charges.

This is how it will work: only users who exceed the new usage cap three times -- across the life of your account, not per month -- will be forced to pay these new per byte overages. Overages will be $10 for every 50GB over the 150 GB or 250GB limit they travel.

AT&T claims their average DSL customer uses around 18GB a month, and these changes will only impact about 2% of all DSL customers -- who the company states consume "a disproportionate amount of bandwidth."

"Using a notification structure similar to our new wireless data plans, we'll proactively notify customers when they exceed 65%, 90% and 100% of the monthly usage allowance," AT&T tells us. The company also says they'll provide users with a number of different usage tools, including a usage monitor that tracks historical usage over time, and a number of different usage tools aimed at identifying bandwidth-hungry services.

Regular readers will recall that this isn't AT&T's first experimentation with usage-based-billing. The company conducted trials of capped services and overages in Reno, Nevada and Beaumont, Texas in 2008. Those trials involved users facing caps ranging from 20GB to 150GB -- and per gigabyte overages up to $1 per gigabyte. The efforts were discontinued in early 2010. In contrast to those trials, which involved capturing nearly all users in an overage net -- this effort is aimed squarely at what AT&T considers consistently heavy users.

"We are committed to providing a great experience for all of our Internet customers," AT&T tells Broadband Reports. "We will communicate early and often with these customers so they are well aware of their options before they incur any additional usage charges," the company says. "Importantly, we are not reducing the speeds, terminating service or limiting available data like some others in the industry."

Keep in mind that AT&T is an investor in bandwidth-intensive services like OnLive's HD game streaming platform, and that the heavy user of today is inevitably the standard user of tomorrow. There's several questions reporters and consumers should now ask, such as whether such overages would be possible in truly competitive markets, or if AT&T has any raw data proving this kind of action is truly necessary. The over-arching question however is: does AT&T scale these caps and overages to accommodate for the dropping cost of bandwidth and hardware moving forward, or do they bend to inevitable investor pressure and continually tighten the metered billing noose?
Message 1 of 18 (2,750 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

Interesting. Thanks for the post. It makes me curious as to how much data I use with services like On-Demand and Netflix. We view maybe 4-6 HD movies a month on average. We also stream several HD TV shows a month on average about 4 hours per week depending on the season. Would that put me any where close to the 250 gig cap?

Message 2 of 18 (2,565 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

This is garbage, another large corporation gouging its customers for money.  We need to take a stand on this and send AT&T a clear message that this kind of unfair treatment will result in a loss of revenue for them.

Message 3 of 18 (2,377 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

[ Edited ]

the irony is that the only reason i switched from TWC to ATT was that at the time ATT was the only company not talking about caps....so i guess i have until May to find a new company and stop recommending uverse. It's not a concern about going OVER a limit, it's that a limit EXISTS.


my question is why offer a service you can't provide. 250GB....whats that like a day's worth of connection at 24mbps?


250GB in 30 days is equal to:

  • 8.3GB a day.
  • 16,300 minutes (11.3 days) of 2Mbps streaming video
  • 11,100 minutes (7.7 days) of 3Mbps streaming video
  • 1/2 that for about 3.85 days or 92.5 hours of 6Mbps
  • 1/2 that for for about 1.92 days or 46.25 hours of 12Mbps
sadly it's going to be difficult to find another ISP. Maybe unlimited 4g true mobile is a decent option now (of course not from ATT).
Message 4 of 18 (2,315 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

If AT&T does this, They lose my $120+ Internet and onDemand money.  They're already able to cap how much you download through the method they use now -- download rate caps.

If your internet speed is capped, then you can download only *up to* the cap (and most of us don't actually get up to the cap).  So they're already sufficiently limiting our download/upload rates to deal with congestion.  The article's statement about 'network congestion caused by heavy users' is complete and utter FUD.  If the 'average user' today (which will be demanding more in the future, due to streaming services, size of all these stupid flash ads, etc) only uses only 2% of the bandwidth that offsets the usage of the people using higher rates.

The main reason they're actually doing this is cause Netflix and similar services are cheaper than their TV offerings.  So people flock to NetFlix, and get movies and TV series and such, and they want a piece of NetFlix's pie.  That is why several ISPs like Comcast and AT&T have tried to make either NetFlix or the customer pay extra for access to the Netflix materials.

I pay a pretty good amount for my internet.  And I'm not about to be told that I can't use what I pay for.  Fair notice AT&T, if you impose these rates, you'll lose MANY customers, myself being one of them.

Message 5 of 18 (2,220 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

[ Edited ]

What didn't anyone realize that this to me looks like a PONZI SCHEME????!!!!!! People think about.... Who in the long run will gain from this, you, no way, they will. They got money symbols flashing in there eyes with a big smile on their face.  It's not like they're trying to get a higher connection speed to us. Back in 2009 they told me that 6.0 will be available, 2011 and still they are saying the same thing, but can't get it.Robot Mad  Oh one more thing it's just us folks who has residental services not business service, that's not fair, wait can you say money money money....

Message 6 of 18 (2,197 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

At what point has it become acceptable for a company to sell something as one thing and not let you use it.  I have the 12Mb service.  My understanding is that I should be able to use all of my service 24 hours a day all month long.  I stream Netflix, Hulu, and other media online.  I like to do this in HD if possible.  I also use STEAM to play and buy games, so that I don't have to keep up with tons of install disks and boxes.  I also work from home and have to send and receive files for that.  I don't see how I would stay under a 1TB cap, much less a 250GB one.  


These caps seem like fraud to me.  We can watch HD TV 24/7 for a flat fee, which is running on the same fiber, but the internet is a no go for what reason exactly?  Like the article I read said, if this is only going to affect 2% of the customer base, then how big of a problem can it be?  If congestion was a horrible problem, I don't think my speedtest results would be consistenly good.


ATT takes about $350/month from me for all the services I have through them, isn't that enough?  I hate the thought of moving everything, but I might have to.

Message 7 of 18 (2,094 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

I would like to know what year and what 2 cities did they conduct this 1 year study (since AT&T will not comment)? Just got off the phone with customer service they did great. You all might want to go check how much usage you've been using by goin to http://myusage.att.com

Household of 4. No cable, so the family watches a lot of Netflix on XBox and PS3(1.8GB/Standard & 3GB/HD for 2 hours of content). Online gaming. Game demos 1GB or more. Streaming one 42 minute (standard definition) Divx show is 350 MB. Downloading albums with Zune Pass. Youtube videos 720x480 16:9 around 80 mb. Almost at 190GB and it hasn't been a month yet. So I guess I'm in the 2 percent.

I'm in a area that has an independent cable system, the one I left for these AT&T(who I have 4 cell phones throught). I left cuz my cable bill was so high. Premium channels, DVR and all the bells. Found myself watching alot of things online minus commercials, so I switched. Well, I guess I'm switching back to cable minus the extras. Didn't use a lot of my unlimited data on 2 of my jailbroken iPhone 4 because of my wifi, but just because of this, I definitely will. I will still be doing what I'm doing, it's just AT&T won't get money from my bundled service anymore. Free any mobile to any mobile is good to me(even though I have Google Voice in my A-List), but this just set yall back so far in my book. I also will be starting a Facebook fanpage and a Twitter in your honor.



Message 8 of 18 (2,083 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

I feel your pain. The locally owned cable company here won't let anyone use their lines. Now I'm pretty glad they didn't. I'm switching back before all the bullsh*t starts. They are able to monitor right now, so why aren't they sending out warnings to ppl? I'm well over 150 GB. I had to call AT&T just to find the website to see how much data I'm using. We need to pay attention.


Message 9 of 18 (1,997 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

"The U-verse data measurement report is currently under construction. When completed, you will be notified if your usage exceeds the allowance. Until that time, U-verse customers should not be concerned about their usage patterns for billing purposes."


I guess U-Verse customers won't be told their overages until the charges show on their bills! :x

Message 10 of 18 (1,959 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

As I posted elsewhere, I fully understand the need to impose caps, although I really do not like them.  But prices need to be fair, and in exchange, AT&T needs to start delivering the speeds they say they offer. When I fist installed DSL here, and before they fully programmed my modem, I could get speeds up well up to 8 and 9 Mbps. Then, when they provisioned my modem, I always got 6 Mbps for a long while. But lately, I am lucky to get 5, and most of the time, I top out at 4.5.


As I also pointed out elsewhere, DSL is NOT a cable modem, and is not subject to local node usage in the same way, so neighbors "hogging" bandwidth is not the cause. Yes, the bandwidth is shared at some concentrator, most likely in the CO to the backbone, but I find it hard to believe that over usage is constantly slowing down my data.  So sure, charge me more, it is what you do, but at least start providing the service you promised originally. 


I knew it was just a matter of time, and as a broadband engineer, I fully understand AT&T's side here. A few of us use a lot of bandwidth, and they want to be paid for it. But this leaves a bad taste in my mouth yet again for AT&T, and will definitely effect my future purchases. I have just renewed my 2 year commitment to Dish, and will now not be getting UVerse. When my cell phone contract is up, I will be considering another carrier. And this is just yet another reason to consider dropping my landline. So yes, AT&T, you may get more money from me when a Microsoft Developer release cause me to need to download a lot of data to stay current, but I will be buying a lot less other services because of it. 


And AT&T, please do me a favor and stop with all the ads about how you are our partners in technology, and you will enable services, and you will make the world a better place, because frankly, you are a greedy, money sucking multinational company that could care less about their customers. Lilly Tomlin needs to start bashing you again. You are right back to where you were in the 70's, a hated phone company. Nice work!

Message 11 of 18 (1,589 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

I just went to look at my usage numbers as well and got this message:




AT&T is not able to capture usage data on all of its customers. Customers whose usage is not available for viewing should not be concerned about their usage patterns for billing purposes.

To learn more about how to manage your usage, please visit www.att.com/internet-usage


I guess I should not be concerned until May that is! And frankly, I find it hard to believe that they do not know how much data I have used. Really?



Message 12 of 18 (1,589 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

The thing about wanting to be paid for bandwidth doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  Their Uverse TV, phone, and internet all come in on the same line, right?  Isn't the TV going to eat up way more bandwidth than whatever internet usage I have, regardless of how much I stream Netflix or Hulu or whoever else AT&T is afraid of?  They aren't putting caps on your TV or phone usage, just the internet.  


The thing that really bugs me, though, is AT&T can do whatever it wants to do because in most markets it has a virtual monopoly and does not have to compete for business.  Where I live, I have a choice of AT&T and Comcast.  There are no other cable providers and no other broadband providers.  Additionally, AT&T has received subsidies to lay their lines, and it costs them very little to maintain their network.  In fact, their costs continue to decline while their prices increase.  And now they want to decrease services without lowering their prices.  


I know AT&T couldn't care less about what I do or what any of their customers think.  However, I had been planning on switching from DirecTV to Uverse when my contract is up this summer.  Now I won't be doing that.  Therefore, their cap will actually decrease their profits in regards to me as a customer.  My internet contract is also up this summer, and I'm going to have to seriously thinking about not renewing.  I'd probably have to go to Comcast, which sucks because they also have a cap, and they are way overpriced, but it makes me sick thinking about AT&T getting any more of my money.  Companies continue to gouge us at will because they can and because our elected officials would rather take their money than stand up for the people who elected them.  The only thing we can do is make a stink and send our money elsewhere.

Message 13 of 18 (1,566 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

[ Edited ]

AT&T will be in breach of contract and should be stopped. When I signed up it was for unlimited usage and they agreed to that and now they are in violation. 

[Per Guidelines:  Keep it Relevant and Appropriate].
Message 14 of 18 (1,517 Views)

Re: Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages

Putting on my corporate hat, I can understand AT&T thinking they will charge "heavy" users more than "light" users. What I am having trouble grasping is the approach they have chosen.


I was disabled several years ago and find myself now spending a LOT of time on the internet. I upgraded my AT&T Uverse service to "MAX Turbo". For this I pay a premium for this level of service. Now I hear AT&T is going set limits on top of this. I did some quick math to see what this will means and how the five different UVerse internet speeds compares under these limits.


Plan       Cost    Speed Gig Limit Hrs DL 1G  Hrs DL 250G  Days DL 250G   % Used
Pro          $35.00  3         250         0.74            185.0                7.7                       26%
Elite         $40.00  6        250         0.37              92.5                  3.9                       13%
Max         $45.00  12       250         0.19              47.5                 2.0                        7%
Max Plus  $55.00  18       250         0.12              30.0                 1.3                        4%
Max Turbo$65.00  24       250         0.09              22.5                 0.9                        3%


What does this tell us? Not much, other than it's a bad deal for the users paying for the faster plans. In a nutshell, with Max Turbo I pay $65 but can only utilize the full speed of my connection 0.9 days a month but someone who pays $35 for a slower connection, like Pro, can utilize the full speed of their connection for a 7.7 days a month.


I also wanted to see how these new caps compare to the hypothetical full capabilities of each service speed and this shows that with "Max Turbo" you can only utilize the full speed 3% of an average 30 day month while paying almost half the price I can use the "Pro" service at full speed 26% of the month before hitting the cap.


Since most of us who would be affected by these new caps are downloading large media content in the background or unattended what is the point of paying more to download faster if the limit is the same. Do I really want to pay a premium to NOT be able to use my connection until the next month sooner?


It's obvious that internet phone service is going to eat into this cap. Yet I still have to pay the same for phone service. The two AT&T iPhones I have connect via wireless when at home, this also eats into it. What about the AT&T microcell? What about on-demand with my AT&T U450 TV package? 


Honestly, I see this as a loss for AT&T in the end. There will be little point to paying for the higher speed packages. When enough customers downgrade their $45 to $65 internet package for the cheaper, yet no more limiting, $35 package maybe then bean counters will wake-up.

Message 15 of 18 (1,443 Views)
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