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AT&T Monthly Bandwidth Caps Are Here

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AT&T's bandwidth caps for its high speed internet customers are here. They're conducting a "market trial" in Reno that started on Nov. 1, where users get between 20GB and 150GB a month, depending on their speed tier. Unlike Time Warner's trial in Beamont, where caps were only applied to new customers, existing customers will also be capped, though they'll get the roomier 150GB cap. If you bust the cap, AT&T will charge an extra dollar per gigabyte. Surveying the broadband landscape in this country, It's either caps or slowdowns or filters. (Unless you're on Comcast, then it's a two-for-one.) Caps seem like the lesser of the three evils, if only because they're fairly transparent—filtering and slowdowns are more insidious, since you might not be immediately aware it's happening. They're essentially legitimized forms of sabotage. Verizon is the only major ISP leaving traffic totally unfettered, but I wonder how long that will last.

AT&T is conducting a market trial in Reno, Nevada to evaluate a usage-based model that could potentially help address today's trend of explosive bandwidth usage. The trial may be extended to one other market by the end of the year. Beginning Nov. 1, 2008, new AT&T High Speed Internet customers in Reno will receive a bandwidth usage amount ranging from between 20 Gigabytes (GB) and 150 GB, depending on their broadband speed tier. Later this year, existing AT&T High Speed Internet customers in Reno will become a part of this trial if their monthly usage exceeds 150 GB in one month. These customers will receive a usage amount of 150 GB per month. Once they're a part of the trial, customers will receive a one month grace period the first time usage is exceeded. Thereafter, customers will be charged $1 for every GB over their determined usage amount. All customers in the trial will receive a bandwidth measuring tool so they can track their usage. We will let all impacted customers know about the trial specifics at least 60-days ahead of any overage charges. We'll also proactively let customers know each time they reach 80 percent of their usage amount. We will not terminate service due to customer usage. We have previously stated that some type of usage based model, for those customers who have abnormally high usage patterns, seems inevitable. A small group of customers are using the majority of bandwidth on our network. In fact, almost 50 percent of total bandwidth is used by just five percent of customers – customers, for example, who are uploading and downloading the equivalent of more than 40,000 YouTube videos or 40 million e-mails a month. This kind of heavy usage has an impact on all of our customers. This trial will help us evaluate ways of dealing with surging usage trends while continuing to meet customer needs for a high quality broadband experience at an affordable price.