AT&T is joining a growing number of carriers who are implementing usage caps on their residential broadband service. The blogosphere is reporting that AT&T intends to institute these caps for DSL and U-verse users beginning on May 2nd. reports that AT&T will begin notifying their subscribers this week of a 150GB monthly usage cap for all DSL customers and a new 250 GB cap for U-verse subscribers. Additionally, GigOM reports that AT&T will institute overage charges of $10 for an additional 50 GB of bandwidth usage (although the overage charges will reportedly only kick in after three instances of customers exceeding their cap – kind of like a broadband three strikes and you’re out approach).

AT&T reports that “…their average DSL customer uses around 18GB a month and these changes will only impact about 2% of all DSL customers.” AT&T has been trialing these usage caps in a couple of markets, including Beaumont, Texas since 2008.

Metered bandwidth is a hot topic, with passionate arguments on either side of the debate. Consumer advocates fear broadband carriers like AT&T will use bandwidth caps to discourage bandwidth intensive applications like video downloading from the likes of Netflix, which increasingly compete with their own video services, like U-verse TV in AT&T’s case.

The carriers argue that these metered approaches are more about network management and ensuring an acceptable broadband experience for all of their customers. Bandwidth supply is not an unlimited proposition – it has limits, they argue. The debate is taking heightened significance, given the ongoing net neutrality proceedings at the FCC.

Some cable companies, including Comcast, have also implemented metered broadband. It will be interesting to watch how FTTH providers like Verizon and SureWest respond to these metered broadband initiatives. Will they follow suit, or will they continue to position their FTTH networks as technologically and competitively superior to the growing number of carriers who are instituting broadband caps?

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6 thoughts on “AT&T Takes Metered Broadband Plunge for DSL, U-verse

  1. It's all about oversubscription. AT&T and every other carrier has less backbone bandwidth than the sum total of what they promise to subscribers. This is normal and rational, but hurts users during peak load periods. I wish a Quality of Service (QoS) were used rather than usage limits. I'd rather be able to use the HOV lane and pay for it then to compete with other power users.

    1. Hi.
      QOS for what, best effort web surfing.

      I am a small Telco out in Bush Alaska, so BW out here is very expensive.
      Anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 a month for a DS1, approx 1.5Mbps.
      So in our small town of some 2400 people, we have 3Mbps dedicated and 4Mbps shared.
      This has to be spread out over our customer base. So yes oversubscription is needed.
      And it is the backbone, heck even out here in the Bush, my local infrastructure can support 6Mbps down and 3Mbps up for 80% of the customers, and some depending on how far from the CO can get more, but we do not have the BW coming into town. And even for dedicated ethernet services I have built for the two major long distance carriers, I cand transport any where from 1Mbps to 1Gbps locally. It is the Backhaul that will be the big killer. Now Bush Alaska is the extreme end of this BW shortage, it exists even in the urban areas of the lower 48. So having QOS on generic web traffic is kind of silly. I am sure people would pay for it, why not just get a package that allows more BW transferred per month and pay for that.

  2. Ok, that is one take. Another take is that they are not trying to save the land line side, but expand the land line side to offer better service, all of which takes money. If on my old copper in Bush Alaska, I can offer up to 100Mbps using VDSL I would not say that is a dying business

  3. Basically they are asking us to roll over and play dead just like they did in "Canada and others in the U.K., New Zealand and elsewhere. In the U.S." This is a strong arm tactic and people better not roll over and take it in the back side like they are expecting us to.

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