This is a bit ridiculous. Good thing my parents want to drop our AT&T service.
Jameson Berkow Mar 14, 2011 – 5:11 PM ET | Last Updated: Mar 15, 2011 2:46 PM ET
With its otherwise quiet northern neighbour currently in an uproar over usage-based billing (UBB) for Internet service, America is about to begin a UBB debate of its own.
AT&T, among the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the United States, confirmed plans Sunday evening to introduce a 150GB (gigabyte) monthly download limit or “cap” on its DSL customers and a 250GB cap on its U-Verse subscribers starting May 2. The new caps will also involve overage charges of US$10 for each additional 50GB of data, or about 50 cents for every gigabyte of data consumed above the limit.
“The top 2 percent of residential subscribers uses about 20 percent of the bandwidth on our network,” the telecom giant said in a statement. “Just one of these high-traffic users can utilize the same amount of data capacity as 19 typical households.”
“Only those who use the most bandwidth should pay more than those who don’t use as much,” the statement said.
Already, U.S. web users are decrying the coming caps just as Canadian web users have been doing since the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the national telecom regulator, allowed Canadian providers to implement an industry-wide UBB regime in late January.
When AT&T ran a trial run of tiered broadband offerings in 2008, user outrage was swift and AT&T quietly shelved plans to impose widespread caps, until now.
Similar to Bell Canada’s offer to exempt its Internet-based television service (called Fibe TV) from its caps, AT&T also said any data consumed over its IPTV (Internet protocol television) will not be counted towards their caps. Also similar to Canada, alternative Internet-based video providers such as Netflix Inc. stand to suffer the most from limited or metered data usage, with a typical Netflix movie streamed in high-definition using about 3.5GB of data.
The difference between the Canadian and American UBB proposals lie in the cap sizes and overage charges. AT&T’s 150GB caps and $0.50/GB overage charges compare to Bell’s 25GB caps, with overage charges ranging anywhere from $1/GB to $5/GB.
The CRTC is currently reviewing its January 25 decision, the results of which will become available in late April. Anti-UBB activists aren’t expecting much, however, as the regulator has refused to expand the scope of its review to include the wider implications of UBB on innovation; choosing instead to continue repeating the mantra shared with Bell and AT&T of “ensuring lighter users do not subsidize heavier users.”