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Is AT&T Shutting Down Metered Billing Trials?
AT&T tells us they're no longer taking new trial participants...
by Karl Bode 06:24PM Monday Feb 22 2010
Last April Time Warner Cable shelved their plans to impose metered billing on their customers, after a user, media and political backlash caused them to reconsider the consumer value of charging up to $5 per gigabyte (as in: not much). While Time Warner Cable took a media beating, AT&T quietly continued to experiment with metered billing in two markets: Beaumont, Texas and Reno, Nevada. In those markets, DSL users face caps ranging from 20GB to 150GB, with users paying $1 for every gigabyte over the cap they travel.

In AT&T's Reno and Beaumont trial markets, the experiment hasn't been particularly well received. Users in those markets have been complaining to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and state regulators, saying they're being advertised unlimited service at sign up, then (if they consume more than 150 GB a month) informed they're being automatically included in the trial. AT&T may have grown tired of the cost of either the project itself, or of answering BBB complaints. According to Stop The Cap, complaining users are being told the trials are being shelved in April:
quote:
Click for full size
"Go to the Southern Nevada Better Business Bureau and file a complaint. I just had the VP of Regional West of AT&T call. She was pissed that I filed a complaint, and now she has to personally reply. She hung up on me." ... Albert was told the nightmare ends April 1st, when the trial wraps up.
We reached out to AT&T for confirmation, and while AT&T confirmed to Broadband Reports that they were no longer signing up users to the trial, they wouldn't technically confirm that the trials had been scrapped. "We are no longer adding new customers to the trial," says AT&T's Seth Bloom. "We are still reviewing the lessons and feedback we've gained from the trial so far to guide our next steps," he says. "We don't have any other plans to share at this time, but we'll communicate with our customers once we've decided how we'll move forward."

One anonymous source within AT&T tells Broadband Reports that the trials may have been scrapped due to the high cost of implementation. "I heard it might be getting shelved because the hardware to do such a thing was more expensive than what it was worth or what it would yield profitwise," says the source. "Supposedly it wouldn't even break even in 5 years," he says. Possibly the cost of hardware, software, support and dealing with Better Business Bureau complaints simply weren't worth the effort. "Some of us have been laughing about it since it started," they say.

The carrier justification for the shift from flat rate pricing to low caps and high overages has always been suspect. Carriers make enough money under the flat rate pricing model to fund network upgrades for decades -- a fact verified by looking at carrier earnings and 10-K data. While carriers (and hired think tanks) also try to claim that these billing models are necessary due to a looming bandwidth implosion, actual network analysis doesn't bear that out, either. Worst perhaps is the carrier argument that such models are in some way altruistic, but most consumers have also seen through such claims.

What these trials are about is delivering additional money to investors by charging consumers more money for the same or less product. What better present to an investor than the money gleaned from continually hiking user overage fees -- at the same time that bandwidth and hardware costs continue to plummet? Low caps and high overages allow a carrier to both monetize the explosion in Internet video and protect TV revenues. They have nothing to do with fairness, as under the models proposed so far, everybody pays more -- not just heavy users.

As both AT&T and Time Warner Cable may be realizing, pushing meters and low caps into a flat-rate market creates a perfect opportunity for your competitors to highlight the simpler benefits of uncapped, flat rate service. As we've noted previously, the only way for carriers to impose their metered billing model on the U.S. market is by doing it collectively, in unison, so that users have no competitive choice in the matter. Both companies may have also drastically underestimated the intelligence of their users.

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Boricua
Premium
join:2002-01-26
Sacramuerto

Common sense?

I have U-Vere and I went with DSL but its availability of being unlimited. I don't need to be wondering, or worrying, if I went over and how much I'm being charged.
--
Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian. Robert Orben
brianiscool

join:2000-08-16
Tampa, FL
kudos:1

Re: Common sense?

I am switching over to U-verse in April.. Great timing for me.

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Brighton, MA

god bless

those users that complained. they spoke for the masses.
--
sbcglobal.net speedtest result 11/11/09 - 5256kbps

Mr Fel
Premium
join:2008-03-17
Louisville, KY

Re: god bless

Completely agreed, I've been worried about this issue since they're rolling out U-Verse out here as well. Thanks guys!

doublea

join:2007-06-04
Petaluma, CA
YES YES YES THANK YOU ATT

now I fully expect att to somehow pull a TWC and flip flop a few times... but at least they are on the fence about the whole thing!

I called att atleast 4 times to complain bitterly to them about this, and not just tier 1 techs, some big wigs seemed annoyed when I talked to them

Video I made about this a few months back:

»www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5n9MDVJXPU

knightmb
Everybody Lies

join:2003-12-01
Franklin, TN
said by ArrayList:

those users that complained. they spoke for the masses.
Certainly!

I always laugh when I here about CAPS that other ISP are doing. I've been doing this for years and never had to worry about even the power users raising bandwidth cost or killing the network.
--
Fight Insight Ready (Was NebuAD) and the like:
Click Here to pollute their data

Jim_in_VA

join:2004-07-11
Cobbs Creek, VA
kudos:4

1 recommendation

$1 per gig overage

I'd take that on a mobile BB plan ...
iansltx

join:2007-02-19
Austin, TX
kudos:2

Re: $1 per gig overage

+1 on that, but $1 per GB on fixed is crap.

kapil
The Kapil

join:2000-04-26
Chicago, IL

1 recommendation

VP?

Why would a VP level officer of the company have to reply to a BBB complaint? An inquiry from a state regulator, sure, but the BBB has no legal authority and businesses, although at their own peril, ignore such complaints regularly.

Unless they hand out the VP title at T like they do at bank...to everyone who walks in the door.
--
»www.VoIPTrunk.com
patcat88

join:2002-04-05
Jamaica, NY
kudos:1

Re: VP?

Some companies like the pieces of flair that BBB and JD Power hand out.

FFH5
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5
said by kapil:

Why would a VP level officer of the company have to reply to a BBB complaint? An inquiry from a state regulator, sure, but the BBB has no legal authority and businesses, although at their own peril, ignore such complaints regularly.

Unless they hand out the VP title at T like they do at bank...to everyone who walks in the door.
The Stop the Cap site lists no info on the complaint or on Albert, the mysterious complainer who got a VP to call him. Truth? Or just another story?
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Re: VP?

a story called BS.

axiomatic

join:2006-08-23
Tomball, TX

LOL

Good thing the "VP of Regional West of AT&T" acted like an adult. I was worried they were going to take their ball and go home.

(sarcasm)

technologiq

join:2000-08-08
Reno, NV
Reviews:
·Charter

I also complained to the BBB and it worked...

I too complained to my local BBB about the caps in Reno, NV. a few months ago. I was pissed that I was notified AFTER signing up that there would be a cap and that if I went back to my old DSL service I would still have a cap.

Within a week they were no longer monitoring my DOWNLOAD usage - only my upload. When the next billing cycle happened it said at the top of the bandwidth meter:

"If you do not see any usage for your high-speed Internet service listed in the online tool, you will not be charged for going over the included usage amount. "

And its no longer monitoring my upload or my download usage.

hdtvtechno22

join:2008-08-22
Chicago, IL

Bravo!

Success

Gaff
Just like the gypsy woman said

join:1999-09-05
North TX, US
Reviews:
·Suddenlink

Excellent news

I'm very happy with my AT&T DSL service but that would not have stopped me jumping ship either back to cable or to another DSL company if these caps were implemented.

80GB/month on the Elite plan? Someone is clearly stuck in a timewarp leading to a decade ago if they think that's a suitable amount, and ideally there should be no caps at all.

According to my router logs I have used over 80GB/month in 5 of the last 10 months, as my DSL connection is powering 3 Internet-enabled devices (2 PCs and a PS3).

I'm very glad to hear that these trials failed.
--
My PC Gaming Blog
»thegaffadin.blogspot.com

r81984
Fair and Balanced
Premium
join:2001-11-14
Katy, TX

Re: Excellent news

Now only if Comcast would learn something here.

Gaff
Just like the gypsy woman said

join:1999-09-05
North TX, US
Reviews:
·Suddenlink

Re: Excellent news

I'm not a fan of caps by any means but at least Comcast has theirs at 250GB a month. I've not even come close to that in a heavy usage month.

That's not to say others won't though, since what is typical for me is not going to be typical for everyone else.

That's the issue with caps, they are a one-size-fits-all bandaid.
--
My PC Gaming Blog
»thegaffadin.blogspot.com

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness

Re: Excellent news

said by Gaff:

I'm not a fan of caps by any means but at least Comcast has theirs at 250GB a month. I've not even come close to that in a heavy usage month.
Well when it first came out 250 seemed reasonable and is for the vast majority. However....

A) Nearly 18 months later and the cap is the same. I think most people that accepted caps assumed they'd eventually go up. So far no dice

B) With Docsis 3.0 the need for caps especially one as low as 250 GB a month isn't necessary. 250 GB is equivalent to 800 kbps. A Docsis 3.0 system can't handle more than 800 kbps per customer?

The Limit
Premium
join:2007-09-25
Greensboro, NC
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Windstream

Re: Excellent news

Something tells me that this meter that Comcast has been working on for so long will throw a curve ball in the situation.

I predict Comcast to slowly move people to usage based tiers. Think about it, why work on the meter so hard when only %1 of the customer base is supposely taxing Comcast's network? Wasn't that the argument about imposing caps?
davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:3

1 edit
Lets say you want 100 liters of juice transferred from London, England to New York City. In 1960 I could ship it by propeller driven DC-6 and get it to you in say 12 hours. That was the DOCSIS 2.0 speed. In 1970 I could ship that same 100 liters of juice by turbofan 707-320 in say 6 hours. That was the DOCSIS 3.0 speed. I did not agree to give you more juice (GB of data) for the same price, just to get the amount you bought to you faster. Comcast is giving you the same amount of data transfer (250GB of juice) but at a faster rate. Comcast is setting up their network at this time to handle faster shipments of the same amount of data. When they are all done with all of the upgrades related to the DOCSIS 3.0 upgrade, I bet they will increase the cap for the same inflation adjusted price, because then all their customers can use the same Terms of Service, because all their customers will be DOCSIS 3.0. You will get more juice for the same inflation adjusted price. And you will get it at a faster rate than before. To the marketing and legal guys this would be the way to go. Big splashy ad campaign about the increase in the data rate and the cap with a single legal change to the TOS.

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness

1 recommendation

Re: Excellent news

said by davidhoffman:

Lets say you want 100 liters of juice transferred from London, England to New York City. In 1960 I could ship it by propeller driven DC-6 and get it to you in say 12 hours. That was the DOCSIS 2.0 speed. In 1970 I could ship that same 100 liters of juice by turbofan 707-320 in say 6 hours. That was the DOCSIS 3.0 speed. I did not agree to give you more juice (GB of data) for the same price, just to get the amount you bought to you faster. Comcast is giving you the same amount of data transfer (250GB of juice) but at a faster rate.
Actually Comast used to give customers an UNLIMITED amount of juice until 18 months ago.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

1 edit
said by r81984:

Now only if Comcast would learn something here.
I think that the comcast caps are "reasonable".. it allows them to define their usage to their customer base.. it's reasonable for the current time.. it gives them a change to keep a control on the network for ALL users to be able to access it with out any kinda of interruption.. and, as they continue to build out their network and get more capacity, I'm sure you will start to see those caps grow as well.

As it's been said, 90-something percent (I think it's 90% of all users) don't come near 250gb per month anyway. If they had a 100gb cap, I think they'd be pissing off a LOT of customers.

The one thing I always had a problem with ATT or even Verizon even thinking about caps is that they own a lot of their own lines that carry the data. And for that, they'd be double dipping... unlike cable that largely either has to lease lines OR buy it from other providers.
sonicmerlin

join:2009-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:1

1 recommendation

Re: Excellent news

said by fiberguy:

said by r81984:

Now only if Comcast would learn something here.
I think that the comcast caps are "reasonable".. it allows them to define their usage to their customer base.. it's reasonable for the current time.. it gives them a change to keep a control on the network for ALL users to be able to access it with out any kinda of interruption.. and, as they continue to build out their network and get more capacity, I'm sure you will start to see those caps grow as well.

As it's been said, 90-something percent (I think it's 90% of all users) don't come near 250gb per month anyway. If they had a 100gb cap, I think they'd be pissing off a LOT of customers.

The one thing I always had a problem with ATT or even Verizon even thinking about caps is that they own a lot of their own lines that carry the data. And for that, they'd be double dipping... unlike cable that largely either has to lease lines OR buy it from other providers.
As someone already pointed out, the number hasn't gone up in 18 months. In other areas where ISPs instituted caps, like Canada and Australia, the values have actually gone down.

The reality is caps don't manage congestion. They're simply a means of an ISP to control their users so they don't have to worry about video competition.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: Excellent news

First, I don't care about OTHER countries like Canada or Australia... I only care about the topic at hand with the provider at hand. And, in the case of Comcast, they've certainly showed to be different in the case of caps over all other AMERICAN ISPs who cam up with lower caps.

Second, I don't believe Comcast came up with caps 18 months ago; it's been less than that.

Third, YES - and try to get this one through your head.. caps, while they may be used to discourage certain uses, ALSO do help with network management.

For the longest time, they tried to manage their network with a different method and it was based PER-NODE.. not company wide. Customers didn't like that some high users were being booted so they forced the hand of the company to set caps.. and they did. To be honest, 250gb is perfectly fine for today's users.

However, if you have people wanting and pushing to use more, and you're network isn't ready to handle that (the last mile) then you have to still manage it. Setting a cap or expected use limit or what ever you can paint/call it, IS also network management. You can apply any theory you want to a cap and many of them can be right, but just because you have it stuck in your mind that it's JUST about competition doesn't make it so.. The fact remains that the internet content can outgrow a network MUCH faster than the network can keep up with upgrades... and THAT is a fact. So yes, caps, in this case, are PART of network management. Der!

How can a cap NOT manage network congestion if you have people, and there are, that are running their connection way beyond a typical residential user.. and that user is slowing down a node for other users? Tell me how that can't be network management?

My statement before stands... comcast has YET to push their caps down - it's not to say they are not going to either.. but who are you to sit there and say they're likely to lower the caps? Again, I could care less about Australia where the country has a data crunch as it is and always has. I could care less about Canada.. again, different country, different way of life, and different make-up of their networks... AT&T just announced they're scrapping their caps. Comcast is increasing capacity.. I certainly can see that they're likely to reduce them. All you're doing is second guessing and ASSuming things right now and while you can, that's fine.. but don't sit there acting like some sort of analyst in the all knowing position as just like MANY people here - you're probably wrong too.

The fact is that if the internet is going to be taking over so much of what we do, and everything starts to shift over towards it, we're BOUND to see a change in the way people buy it just as we are seeing the way people consume it. Do you REALLY think that any MSO, be it cable, phone, etc.) is going to simply dwindle down other products and revenue as one service dominates and decimates the other? no.. think about it. Yes, I WILL say that the internet cost WILL go up. They STILL have to maintain a business model and need X amount of $ to run it.. and when video starts to take a dive due to the internet, yes, the internet will either be priced higher, OR will get treated like electricity and gas and you'll pay for what you use... HOW you use it, in the future, is up to you.. Some people will pay more, some people may pay less... but caps, as you say are ALSO a way to manage a network that isn't ready for what people want to throw at it.. you can't deny it.. well, you can, but you'd be wrong if you're saying its "just to control video competition"...

If you're going to make a post, take some time to think about EVERY aspect of something, not just your own view.

technologiq

join:2000-08-08
Reno, NV
Reviews:
·Charter

1 edit

Re: Excellent news

said by fiberguy See ProfileTo be honest, 250gb is perfectly fine for today's users. [/BQUOTE :

I have 3 kids with laptops, 2 xboxes, watch streaming Netflix and DirecTV on Demand and frequently use more than the caps allow.

Whats your math for determining that 250gb is perfectly fine for todays usage? Just your own opinion? Perhaps you should read the last sentence in your post again.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: Excellent news

You missed the entire point.. I don't need to give you the math.. I'm not the only one saying it. As of right now, who has the highest cap? Comcast. Who has the lowest caps? TWC and until yesterday, ATT.

If 99% of all users are under 250gb right now and most of them hardly come anywhere NEAR that amount.. what more "math" do you need?

My last sentence was just fine.. I AM taking everyone into account.. is 99% of the people not significant?

If you're using more than 250 gb, why don't you take the advice of many other and go business class.. it's usually $10 or $20 more.. but, in the eye of the ISP, and in this case, I'm going to agree with them, I think when they are trying to establish "residential use" for $42 a month, and 99% of their users are at or well under 250gb, I think that's pretty much a great definition of "residential use"... if you need more, that's your concern.. maybe you need to make adjustments to your use, or consider other options.. maybe a slower DSL connection that doesn't have those "caps"...

One thing people need to get through their heads is that just becuase YOU want something and you scream loud enough, you're not always going to get it "your way".. it's not Burger King after all.. as of right now, if you need more than 250, want fast speeds that cable offers, then you're going to have to make choices for yourself.

doublea

join:2007-06-04
Petaluma, CA

Thank you att

I am so happy that they listened! Now don't change your mind again att, I will be calling again!

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

I think the fact that people file with the BBB indicates...

That, no, they think the caps suck.

Course will a large Corporation like AT&T learn from it? No, they'll probably conclude they need stronger legalese to protect them from the "whiners."
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini
djhexer

join:2002-10-07
Reno, NV

In Reno

I switched my mom who knows nothing about the internet from AT&T to Charter because she was on the basic 768k and a lite user and somehow she went over 10 Gig 1 month (No torrent or online gaming) and was charged 30.00 in overages.

She now is with charter and pays 19.95 instead of 10.00 per mo. and has 5meg service and no worrying.

That is why I stuck with charter because they have 20/2 for 50.00 per mo. with soft caps (and I am a heavy user and *cross fingers* no letter yet.

technologiq

join:2000-08-08
Reno, NV
Reviews:
·Charter

Re: In Reno

As someone who used to have charter in Reno and would be considered a heavy user (6 pcs, 2 xbox, ps3, iphones, Netflix, DirecTV on Demand and torrenting) I can tell you that Charter does in fact send those nice letters out stating that you've gone over your cap and that should this happen multiple times you will get charged accordingly. Charter is a joke in Reno.
bluedyedvd

join:2007-04-15
Overland Park, KS

soft cap vs hard caps

I just watched that youtube video i said that twc has a 80 gb cap. I have twc and blow past that every month i am a heavy usenet user and have never heard a peep from twc. I think that all isp have a softcap so that don't enforce becausethey need a way to deal with the few users. that might be abusing the service

As far as comcast goes i read other forums about their 25gb cap from what i have seen they only enforce it if you really blow past the cap like a around a tb. If they really wanted to enforce i think they would have a over limit fee. Bandwidth is cheap and getting cheaper so as long as they are still making off you why would want to get rid of you