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AT&T Starts Metered Billing Trial In Reno
20-150GB cap depending on tier, $1 per gigabyte overage fee
by Karl Bode 07:04PM Monday Nov 03 2008
Earlier this year, AT&T began laying the political and public relations groundwork for a shift toward metered billing, throwing comments to the press about how such a shift was "inevitable," while company lobbyists began dropping vague hints that a billing shift was coming. Last summer, executives at the company announced that the telco would be conducting a metered billing trial this fall. The time for that trial has arrived, and Broadband Reports has learned that Reno, Nevada will be the lucky first market. Last Friday, AT&T filed this (pdf) notice with the FCC that confirms the nation's largest ISP will be conducting a metered billing trial in Reno.

This local market trial underscores our commitment to bring bigger, faster and smarter broadband networks to more and more communities at affordable rates.
-AT&T Memo
Existing flat-rate profits weren't to AT&T CTO John Donovan's liking, the exec complaining last summer that "traffic on our backbone is growing 60 percent per year, but our revenue is not." Earlier this year I floated the idea that the FCC's investigation of Comcast benefited AT&T in more ways than one, and the FCC's supposed love of transparency was in part aimed at opening the door to metered billing. AT&T's filing with the FCC is clear to highlight how much this new metered move is about AT&T's love of "transparency," not protecting U-Verse TV revenues from Internet video, or ramping up already impressive profits:
Consistent with AT&T’s belief that consumers should have clear information about the capabilities of their broadband Internet access services and any meaningful limitations on those service, AT&T will be providing written notice to customers involved in the trial explaining that their broadband service will be subject to a certain monthly usage tier for the total amount of data they may send and receive, as well as a per gigabyte charge in the event they exceed the usage tier.
New customers in Reno this month are finding that their shiny new DSL tier comes with caps ranging from 20 to 150 gigabytes per month, depending on which service speed tier a customer signs up for (AT&T offers DSL tiers ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps). The filing says that later this year, existing customers in Reno will become a part of this trial should their monthly usage exceed 150 GB in one month.

Should customers in Reno exceed the 150GB usage limit, AT&T is currently considering charging them an additional $1 per gigabyte. That's in line with Time Warner Cable's current metered usage trial, news of which we first broke earlier this year. Unlike Comcast, who also has implemented caps of 250GB per month, AT&T will be offering up a usage tool to impacted customers. The company will also provide some kind of automated alert (perhaps banner injection technology?) once a customer hits 80% of their monthly allotted capacity. From the AT&T FCC filing:
In addition, the first time a customer exceeds the applicable monthly usage tier, AT&T will send a written notice reminding the customer again about the usage tier, but we will not impose any additional charges at that time. Only after the second time the customer exceeds the applicable monthly usage tier will the customer be subject to additional per-gigabyte charges. Finally, in the event a new or existing customer does not want to participate in the trial, we will permit the customer to cancel their broadband Internet access service without an early termination penalty.
Well aren't you a sweetheart, AT&T. Combined with your planned piracy filters and wholesale funneling of customer data to the NSA (pdf), you're becoming a real charmer. Despite denying to us earlier this year that you were making subtle flirtations with metered billing, it's now pretty clear this is an idea you've lusted after for a while.

According to documents, AT&T may extend the trial into additional markets later this year, so Reno customers won't be the only lucky netizens to experience AT&T's new broadband profit vision. According to AT&T, it's for your own good. "This local market trial underscores our commitment to bring bigger, faster and smarter broadband networks to more and more communities at affordable rates," an announcement is expected to read.

Update: AT&T Spokesman Seth Bloom contacts me to add: "One minor point I’d make - we may extend the trial to ONE other market by the end of the year...not markets plural..."

Update 2: After speaking with a handful of major technology news websites, I've learned that a certain very large cable company was very interested in seeing this story pushed yesterday in the media. Numerous outlets were approached by said company to make sure they saw AT&T's filing.

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Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Tulsa, OK

2 recommendations

reply to morgan1112

Re: Unrealistic expectations -- Why revenue doesn't increase 60%

said by morgan1112:

They just implemented a Television service
There you go. Now you see why they want caps. To prevent people from using broadband to get alternative TV programming (video, Movie, whatever) from 3rd party competitors.
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

Mountain View, CA

1 edit

2 recommendations

reply to 45612019

Re: Hahaha

said by 45612019:

The U.S. really does suck ass.
Yeah? Why don't you take a look at South African ISPs sometime -- you'll be quite surprised how little bandwidth they provide (most offer ~20GB/month), combined with explicit filtering of any P2P client (DC++, Torrents, etc.) *and* QoS (packet prioritisation, giving HTTP and SMTP highest priority). They also charge you more per month if you want to use undersea fibre rather than (heavily latent) satellite for packets that leave the country.

Oh, and let's not forget you get all of that for around US$120/month.

I think we have it better than they do. Next time, try using that big fat Internet connection you have to actually *educate* yourself about what other countries have; do not think for a moment they're all like Japan, South Korea, or Sweden.

Santa Rosa, CA

3 recommendations

Chilling effect

It doesn't matter how big a cap is, the fact that a cap exists will give users pause when they decide what they do on the Internet. That's bad for innovative new applications.

Even if 99% of customers are nowhere near whatever cap is selected, 100% of them will be THINKING about the cap and changing their behavior as a result. That's bad for the Internet.

Expand your moderator at work