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AT&T to Cap Broadband users

Posted by Bradley Wint on 15/03/2011

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Yep, AT&T will soon put a monthly data cap on its broadband Internet users, but it doesn’t seem to as bad as it appears.

Folks using regular DSL will be allowed a monthly limit of 150GB, while those on UVerse fiber network will have a higher limit of 250GB per month. Users crossing this limit will have to pay $10 a month per 50GB used or part thereof. Surprisingly a number of users have kicked up a fuss with the announcement, but in reality, the only ones to suffer are the heavy streamers or downloaders.

They are telling consumers not to worry because only a mere 2% of their DSL customers ever cross this limit. AT&T have switched to capped limits to avoid the whole controversy of serving out “unlimited” data bandwidth.

Consumers and analysts are worried though because AT&T’s actions could mean that other providers may start jumping on the cap train, but considering the present situation, we wonder if this cap even makes sense or is just there so they could avoid legal troubles. The only way for users to clock so much bandwidth would be through downloading many games via Steam, copious amounts of porn and streaming lots of TV shows through Hulu or Netflix.

Most users on AT&T’s regular DSL have connections where they are promised “up to” a certain speed, which means it can fluctuate and dropping a lawsuit on them for lower speeds would seem impossible. They would have to literally leave their system downloading 24/7 to surpass the set bandwidth, which is a very rare occurrence, with some connections being too slow to even meet the limit. I for one use the net quite a lot of catch up on TV shows and also download games via Steam, and I can surely say I don’t even cross that 150GB limit.

While it may seem reasonable, caps are still a step in the wrong direction since it is not the best way to manage overcapacity at an ISP’s data center. Rather than limiting the total downloaded per month, they should have throttled speeds during peak periods and possibly re-engineer their network to better deal with bottle-necks. If customers were evil and decided to max their download speed all on the same day at the same time, it could still clog the network and make the whole concept of having a cap useless. Let’s hope they try a different strategy.

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