AT&T will trial metering bandwidth in Reno, NV. Monthly bandwidth caps for DSL subscribers will run anywhere from 20 to 150 gigabytes per month, depending on which DSL tier the subscriber elects to take. Unlike other metered bandwidth attempts from AT&T’s competitors, namely Time Warner Cable and Comcast, AT&T says they will provide a traffic meter to customers. The meter will provide “real time” usage of bandwidth, giving customers insight into where they stand relative to their respective cap. When customer’s go over the cap, they will be charged $1 per gigabyte. Read the letter to the FCC outlining this trial (by way of BroadbandReports.com).
Looks like the move towards metered bandwidth is well under way. AT&T joins the other aforementioned cable companies, along with a handful of others, all of whom argue that a disproportionately small number of users “hog” bandwidth, and negatively impact the bandwidth experience of all customers. Therefore, they argue, they are within their right to limit usage of abusers. Cynics argue that these metered bandwidth trials have more to do with limiting the flow of content, particularly video content, which potentially competes with and impacts subscription video business models like U-verse TV. Other opposing views suggest metered bandwidth trials also have something to do with trying to squeeze more revenue out of the broadband business model. Whatever the case, the act of trying to regulate bandwidth usage engenders passionate arguments on both sides, both of which contain elements of validity. All arguments aside, the competitive marketplace will determine the ultimate success and failure of metered bandwidth. If competitors in a given market have success in leveraging unmetered access as a differentiator over the likes of AT&T and Comcast, I suspect the success of these initiatives will be mixed at best, and probably scrapped. On the other hand, if all/most broadband players participate in some sort of “metered bandwidth coup,” then consumers won’t have a competitive choice, and will be forced to oblige. By early accounts, it appears that the “coup” momentum is growing.