More broadband caps in the US, AT&T starts today

By on May 2, 2011, 5:50 AM

At one point unlimited bandwidth was almost regarded a universal right in the United States and many other developed nations, but the growing demand for on-demand video and peer-to-peer traffic has left ISPs scrambling for ways to avoid excessive burdens on their networks. And unfortunately – for bandwidth hogs, at least – monthly download caps and overage charges have become a harsh reality.

Starting today AT&T will be enforcing hard caps on its broadband user base, the second largest of the country with approximately 16 million subscribers. DSL users will be limited to 150GB of downstream data, while U-Verse caps are a little more permitting at 250GB. AT&T plans to charge overage fees of $10 for every additional 50GB of data, though the company will issue two monthly warnings before you get billed.

Earlier this year when confronted with the question of why they were enforcing this limitation, AT&T said that less than 2 percent of their customers would be affected, and that this "top 2 percent of residential subscribers were using about 20 percent of the bandwidth" on their network. According to Wired, with the change AT&T is joining the leagues of Comcast and many other smaller ISPs around the country that are putting a price to a fixed amount of Internet usage.

Perhaps it's too dramatic to call this the return of the dial-up days, but the fact remains that over the past decade we've grown accostumed to the idea that broadband is unlimited and that no matter what we decide to do with it, it's always there so we can look up information, exchange emails, watch videos, download software, or upload content that we're backing up or wanting to share with others. Although it's easy to assume torrent users are likely within that 2% group of heavy usage subscribers, ISPs are taking more issue with video-streaming services like Hulu and Netflix.

Just last March Netflix announced lower video quality streams to counter bandwidth caps set by Canadian ISPs. Netflix estimates that an hour of standard definition video will at the very least consume 0.3GB/hour, while best quality videos will use about 1.0 GB/hour for SD or up to 2.3GB/hour when streaming HD content.

Finally, Wired shares an interesting statistic that makes it clear that bandwidth costs are not the reason ISPs are concerned about heavy data usage. "Time Warner Cable brought in $1.13 billion in revenue from broadband customers in the first three months of 2011, while spending only $36 million for bandwidth — a mere 3 percent of the revenue. Time Warner Cable doesn’t currently impose bandwidth caps or metering on its customers — though they have reserved the right to do so — after the company’s disastrous trial of absurdly low limits in 2009 sparked an immediate backlash from customers and from D.C. politicians."

Instead it's about local infrastructures and how customers that are exceeding normal use impact neighbors' connection speeds. Nonetheless that's where things start to get messy as we throw in net neutrality in the mix along with cable companies' interest in keeping current subscribers hooked to their offerings while more content becomes available online through both free and paid services.




User Comments: 43

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Guest said:

The American Dream.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

gotta love going backwards....

Guest said:

Oh no... how am I going to complete my collection of every TV show, movie, and music album I'll never watch?

I might not even be able to torrent the all the latest games or the Office 2010 and Windows 7 and the Adobe CS5 Master Collection (who would even want the "lesser" versions?).

...Hmm? Am I missing something? Oh. Maybe the latest Ubuntu, LibreOffice, and other open source software. I guess.

I sometimes check them out. When I get around to them.

Guest said:

another reason to stay away from America for me :) ...

blimp01 said:

2 percent - they shouldnt even bother, and eventually they'll switch to pay per GB lol

Jurassic4096 said:

Guest said:

Oh no... how am I going to complete my collection of every TV show, movie, and music album I'll never watch?

I might not even be able to torrent the all the latest games or the Office 2010 and Windows 7 and the Adobe CS5 Master Collection (who would even want the "lesser" versions?).

...Hmm? Am I missing something? Oh. Maybe the latest Ubuntu, LibreOffice, and other open source software. I guess.

I sometimes check them out. When I get around to them.

HUH?

Jurassic4096 said:

Up to 2.3GB/hour... ouch!

Guest said:

"another reason to stay away from America for me".

Yep - I heard that Pakistan or Burkina Faso may be the social paradise we all waited for. Go there!

Guest said:

Boo hoo! Poor Americans :(

I live in a first world country and no one, repeat, no one has ever even been given the option of having those kind of download caps. Ours are mostly below that, with either a lowering of speed cap (to like 64Kb/s or similar) or some ridiculous $ per Megabyte over cap.

Guest said:

You just gotta love those companies stealing your money don't you? This is ridiculous. I pay for my internet usage, I don't pay to be limited.

Cota Cota said:

stewi0001 said:

gotta love going backwards....

Considering the facts, no we are not likely going backwards! companies just realized they cant keep up the speed hysteria, they may had overloaded whit ton of users and now they cant give their services whit out overloading

I live in Mexico and i have 2048Kbps wich is .2MB/s but since last year they had been slowly raising it to 10240Kbps (1MB/S) i had tested my dl cap and if i have it its superior to 460GBs (500GB's is what i can dl whit my speed in a month) and my collage friend whit 10240Kbps, well lets that he downloads a lot and neither him had saw a cap :P

But and i say BUT, we dont have movie streaming services and that may be the difference !

Guest said:

'Starting today AT&T(...) DSL users will be limited to 150GB of downstream data, while U-Verse caps are a little more permitting at 250GB. AT&T plans to charge overage fees of $10 for every additional 50GB of data, though the company will issue two monthly warnings before you get billed.' That's still pretty good compared to what i have here in Canada: I pay close to $60 a month for 50GB of downstream AND upstream data COMBINED. And the overage fees are $4.50 per gigabyte for a maximum of $50 surcharge.

Guest said:

Get use to cap it going to be reality. But almost almost these ISP forget mention the caps only apply to home users/residential not to business users with thier services.

Guest said:

LOL they tried that in Canada just a few months back.. it' got booted out the door and sent back to the CRTC to 'try again'. I love the arguments used by the the providers.. anyone who has a apple or netflix or google TV system IS part of the 'top 2%, anyone who plays MMO or consoles online is part of that top 2%.. in reality it's going to be hard to find people who are not part of that top 2% as they are the 'norm now' the providers just want it to sound like it's pirates or evil do-ers they are going after, it's you. They make the internet sound like a finite resource. Like it will run out and therefore NEED to raise rates to find more electrons.. total BS.

T77 T77 said:

150gigs is still VERY GOOD. I download like 4gigs a month on my 60Kbps connection (it is very painful to say the least) and my ISP will come up with a message that I have used 80% of my download limit and wishes me happy browsing.And then my speed would be downgraded to like 30Kbps.

And my net connection is supposed to be a broadband connection! I feel like bashing my ISP provider.

Virtually I have never experienced a 256Kbps(the minimum legal requirement in my country to be termed as broadband) download speed(although my connection is supposed to be one)...

The max I have experienced is somewhere near 200Kbps that too lasting for a couple of minutes.Its an event that occurs about once in five or six months.And it feels like heaven for those couple of minutes

Well, I guess these are the perils of living in a third world nation(as many people out there like to term it).

JudaZ said:

There are other places then US, Pakistan or Burkina Faso

You are more then welcome to visit Sweden.

100/100Mbit quite common, no caps what so ever,

Download what you want, when you want.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I had a great argument with the Charter person that called me regarding my caps. She actually went and said that they never offered "unlimited" internet in the first place. When I asked her if she wants me to mail her a copy of the flyer they sent to my house advertising it, she quickly backtracked and said that the TOS changed in the last bill I got. When I actually looked at the bill, there was nothing there. When I asked her why are they still charging me the same rate as for the unlimited internet as before, she said that is a sales matter, and not her department.

When they called me about a year before, they were asking me what kind of security I had on my computer, as they were afraid that I was part of some botnet. I told them that I am very aware of what is downloaded on my computer, and asked them again if this was an unlimited account. At that time they said yes.

They're already charging me 10 bucks a month because i don't have actual cable TV.

But then I saw this metered trend coming a few years ago, so I did what I had to do back then. =)

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

Boo hoo! Poor Americans

I live in a first world country and no one, repeat, no one has ever even been given the option of having those kind of download caps. Ours are mostly below that, with either a lowering of speed cap (to like 64Kb/s or similar) or some ridiculous $ per Megabyte over cap.

So I should be fed shit because someone somewhere else is fine eating it?

howzz1854 said:

Dude I clock 110GB down stream easily in three weeks of netflix instant steaming. This blows.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

JudaZ said:

There are other places then US, Pakistan or Burkina Faso

You are more then welcome to visit Sweden.

100/100Mbit quite common, no caps what so ever,

Download what you want, when you want.

From what I hear plenty of people have been doing just that. How's that working out for y'all?

Zilpha Zilpha said:

Guest said:

You just gotta love those companies stealing your money don't you? This is ridiculous. I pay for my internet usage, I don't pay to be limited.

I pay for it too, and I don't pay to be limited by johnny next door downloading every movie he can get his hands on, bogging down the system. If you read the article, the big issue they are running into is QoS for people across the board. When 2% of the population is taking up 20% of the resources, there is a problem.

ramonsterns said:

Zilpha said:

I pay for it too, and I don't pay to be limited by johnny next door downloading every movie he can get his hands on, bogging down the system. If you read the article, the big issue they are running into is QoS for people across the board. When 2% of the population is taking up 20% of the resources, there is a problem.

Excellent way to deal with 2% of the internet users by limiting the other 98%.

Guest said:

wow, you're screwed if you're an online gamer

Guest said:

**** that ****.

I need lot's of bandwidth...haha

Guest said:

Be glad you don't live in South Africa. Americans and EUropeans have luxury when it comes to broadband speed/access. In South Africa our ISP's rates 9Gb useage per month as abuse. If I was on a 150Gb p/month cap and had to pay $10 p/50Gb overuse I would jump with joy ! In South Africa we are still in stone age as far as speed concerned. in most parts of the country you are lucky to even get a 4mb ADSL, but in real world it rarely gets faster than 512k. Despite several new direct fibre cable links (in 2009, 2010 & 2012), more than 20Tb p/sec, we are still one of the slowest and most expensive when it comes to ADSL in the world.

Many people here doesn't even know about the existance of Youtube ! Our cellphone comapnies now offer 42Mb wireless (real world speeds of 24mb) on a 2.3Gb p/month cap !!!

Guest said:

As someone who works for an ISP and who has seen the changes made in the UK to the company i work for due to the cost of upgrading the network to host the services we are using today to the tune of around £1,000,000 a DAY, this doesn't really surprise me. Would you expect to use your gas, electric, telephone, car etc for a few hours a day and expect to pay the same as someone who uses it 24 hours a day? I think not, your bandwidth costs money to provide as do the support people you call FREE on 24/7/365 in my companies case if you need help with the service. If the cheap deals are gone welcome to reality and try to watch TV where it is generally best suited, on your TV, use a Digital Video recorder to record your shows.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Be glad you don't live in South Africa. Americans and EUropeans have luxury when it comes to broadband speed/access. In South Africa our ISP's rates 9Gb useage per month as abuse. If I was on a 150Gb p/month cap and had to pay $10 p/50Gb overuse I would jump with joy ! In South Africa we are still in stone age as far as speed concerned. in most parts of the country you are lucky to even get a 4mb ADSL, but in real world it rarely gets faster than 512k. Despite several new direct fibre cable links (in 2009, 2010 & 2012), more than 20Tb p/sec, we are still one of the slowest and most expensive when it comes to ADSL in the world.

Many people here doesn't even know about the existance of Youtube ! Our cellphone comapnies now offer 42Mb wireless (real world speeds of 24mb) on a 2.3Gb p/month cap !!!

Seems like using a pigeon would be faster. =)

Guest said:

Here in New Zealand we have always known caps - in fact the fact that AT&T is lowering to 150GB blows me away - what I wouldn't give for such a large amount of data for an affordable price!

Until the last year or so most ISPs offered 3GB - 40GB (expensive!). As it is, with my ISP I get data in 25GB chunks, at NZD$30 a pack (currently about USD$24). Before this it was $12 for 10GB.

I think AT&T customers are pretty lucky...

Guest said:

Waaaa thats so sad. Do you need a hug.

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

Here in New Zealand we have always known caps - in fact the fact that AT&T is lowering to 150GB blows me away - what I wouldn't give for such a large amount of data for an affordable price!

Until the last year or so most ISPs offered 3GB - 40GB (expensive!). As it is, with my ISP I get data in 25GB chunks, at NZD$30 a pack (currently about USD$24). Before this it was $12 for 10GB.

I think AT&T customers are pretty lucky...

I don't live in New Zealand and neither does anyone who currently lives in the U.S., so keep your bandwidth sob story to yourself.

Guest said:

ha ha

suck it down - only habitual thieves need 150GB.

some people have to live with 1GB :-P

Mizzou Mizzou said:

This is about making more money and little else. Otherwise, why not just throttle the 2% that are using a disproportionate amount of bandwidth? Also, the additional 100GB cap room for U-Verse customers smacks of anti-competitive business practice.

Fortunately there are alternatives to AT&T, I switched to the Clear 4G plan last month and have 6 Mbs service with no data cap for $45 a month. Also, by purchasing the router up front I had the option of going with a month to month plan instead of a long term service agreement.

Guest said:

oh no not this, how could they take my internets, n0o0o0o.

Deal with it, in some areas, the max you will get is a 9gb cap, and here its already 150-250gb for you chops hahahaha.

Stop whining.

Guest said:

My complaint is AT&T implemented this half baked. Checking to see how my use compares using link provided in revised terms of service "under construction" and "do not be concerned" rather than usage data. Support could not get actual usage either. This is like have a cell phone plan only to find out usage when minutes are near the monthly limit.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Stop worrying about it.... if the limits end up being restrictive then it won't be long before you're able to buy a unlimited package similar to the way cell phone packages work. I'd like to know what I use before I care about this. Considering an HD movie is 5GB/2 hrs, 150GB a month is about exactly 30 movies, or 1 a day. Who even has time to watch a movie every day? And there's no way an MMO or anything else can reach that rate of usage.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

I've been contacted by comcast twice and even shut off for exceeding their cap. Once I remind them that I pay 300usd a month between phone internet and tv from them they quickly turn it back on.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

you might find this reference to be interesting, as some misuse of protcols can easily adversely impact the network capacity.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Stop worrying about it.... if the limits end up being restrictive then it won't be long before you're able to buy a unlimited package similar to the way cell phone packages work.

I don't know much about cell phone policies, but I thought that AT&T doesn't offer unlimited plans anymore. I thought Verzion was ending theirs (maybe already did). Not sure about the others.

Guest said:

As an AT&T customer, I can tell you why I believe they are doing this. In the past 2 months, 8 AT&T sales people have been at my door trying to get us to switch to U-Verse. This is an attempt to get AT&T customers who currently just have a landline and DSL to switch to a Landline, Cell, DSL, and TV bundle for $125 a month. They spent money to upgrade areas so they can accommodate U-Verse and people already have phone, dsl, and satellite TV services that they like.

Zen Zen, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This is disturbing news! But I don't think this topic has much to do with me, for I think I'm having to live with caps, seeing that I'm a Comcast customer and I think they cap me out at or around 250Gig's per billing period.

Now I did see something that someone posted about this and it got me thinking. I think someone said something about "streaming video" off the Internet, as something that is added up towards a cap limit? I'm a total Hulu and Fancast and You Tube watcher, so ever time one of those sites streams video in my direction it's getting added up some how? Does that streaming video get added up and taken into consideration towards my possible 250 Gig per billing period limit?

I wonder if there is a monitoring tool one could use to keep track of all those Gig's of bandwidth being used, as to ensure one doesn't exceed their limits. If so, I want that tool!

Guest said:

What? those caps are NOTHING compared to what we have here in Australia, less than 3 years ago $100 per month would get you only 50GB p/m and if you use over the monthly capped, your internet speed gets slashed to 64kbps (no joke!) now since they changed the plans a bit I pay $90 for only 150GB per month but my speeds will still slash to dial up speeds after I go over the monthly limit.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Now I did see something that someone posted about this and it got me thinking. I think someone said something about "streaming video" off the Internet, as something that is added up towards a cap limit? I'm a total Hulu and Fancast and You Tube watcher, so ever time one of those sites streams video in my direction it's getting added up some how? Does that streaming video get added up and taken into consideration towards my possible 250 Gig per billing period limit?

I wonder if there is a monitoring tool one could use to keep track of all those Gig's of bandwidth being used, as to ensure one doesn't exceed their limits. If so, I want that tool!

Yep, it counts.

There are lots of programs that will keep track of how much you download. Here is an example: http://www.bwmonitor.com/

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