dslreports logo
site
spacer

spacer
 
   
spc
story category
AT&T Microcell Doesn't Count Against DSL, U-Verse Caps
Consumer Groups Claims AT&T's Violating Net Neutrality
by Karl Bode 02:32PM Wednesday Jan 16 2013
As we discussed back in 2010, AT&T's "Microcell" service essentially acts as a miniature cell tower in a user's home -- routing cell calls over the user's broadband. While these femtocell services are useful for users with poor reception, telco business models have often crippled the devices. Verizon's version eats cell minutes. AT&T's version requires you pay AT&T for the privilege of reducing strain on AT&T's towers by routing calls over the user's (often non-AT&T) home broadband connection.

Click for full size
Back in 2010 we noted that the service also counted against AT&T's wireless usage cap, despite the fact the traffic was routed over a user's own broadband connection. Fast forward a few years, after AT&T imposed usage caps on their U-Verse and DSL customers in 2011, and Stop The Cap has noticed that AT&T is excluding their Microcell traffic from wired customer usage caps. From the AT&T FAQ:
quote:
“I have an AT&T 3G MicroCell. Since that utilizes my home broadband network to boost my wireless data signal, does that mean my wireless usage also counts against my wired broadband monthly data plan?

No, the wireless traffic from your AT&T 3G MicroCell does not count toward your monthly home broadband plan. Please register your AT&T 3G MicroCell account and your residential AT&T Internet account at www.att.com/internet-usage-MicroCell to help ensure accurate Internet usage billing. If you have broadband service with another provider, you do not need to register your account."
More simply, if you use a competitor with caps you'll pay for this data, if you use AT&T you won't. It's a decision that's entirely arbitrary since data should simply be considered data. Using caps to sway consumers away from a competitor certainly violates the principle of net neutrality and is a prime example of how usage caps can quietly be used anti-competitively, not that AT&T or regulators will care. Remember too that AT&T's usage meters don't work accurately (also something regulators couldn't care less about), adding another layer of ridiculous to the equation.

Update: Public Knowledge has jumped into the fray, arguing that this is an example of AT&T using usage caps anti-competitively:
quote:
ISPs should not be able to use data caps anticompetitively. The company that connects you to the internet should not be able to abuse its control of that connection in order to make its unrelated services more attractive.

That is precisely what Comcast did in the Xbox case and what AT&T is doing here. It is also one of the core concerns driving the net neutrality debate. If the FCC is unwilling or unable to protect consumers from data cap abuse, then Congress needs to step in.

view:
topics flat nest 

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

This is good for AT&T and AT&T wireless customers

Net Neutrality - who cares. This is good for the AT&T wireless customer and allows them to get good reception in the home without incurring additional costs due to cap overages. It is good for AT&T and the customers as it moves congestion from the cell network.
--
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury.
BSchlinker
Working 24-7

join:2003-08-25
San Jose, CA

Re: This is good for AT&T and AT&T wireless customers

AT&T is still using customer's data plan allotment for data which flows through their home internet connection. To be honest, this is probably why they are wiling to ignore this data when calculating the home broadband usage.

Even if the user has an internet connection through Comcast, I imagine that the data still flows through part of AT&T's network, as the microcell probably sets up some sort of VPN / tunnel. However, it doesn't flow through the most congested part of their network, so I can't imagine how they justify charging the customer / using their data plan allotment.

Then again, they don't need to justify much, do they?
Crookshanks

join:2008-02-04
Binghamton, NY

Re: This is good for AT&T and AT&T wireless customers

That's exactly how it works, it establishes a VPN back to your wireless provider. Everything is routed over that VPN.

As far as charging for data (or even minutes/SMS), keep in mind that you're still using cellular frequencies, which the carrier paid billions for the privilege of having access too, and femtocells do not come with zero impact on the macro network. The power/channel management logic on the back end of these devices is exceedingly complex, it's not just another Wi-Fi AP.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
Yes and it would be a good thing for Sprint customers that have AT&T as a ISP, as well as Verizon and T-Mobile customers. Oh wait.... that's right it still counts against their caps so maybe it isn't such a good thing for them. Now they get to have their mobile data cap AND there internet data cap getting used all for the same bits.

It is traffic going across your internet connection. Its origin and destination are not relevant as it still travels through your router, across your last mile and through their network. Hence the bigger issue with this and the exact reason why I care.
axus

join:2001-06-18
Washington, DC
It's bad for Verizon, and anti-competitive. Unless AT&T is exempting VOIP and competitors femtocells from the data cap?
en103

join:2011-05-02
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
AT&T's meters have a 20% markup on data to cover ATM overhead, so they're already effectively charging 20% of any data used, which is probably less than a cell would use.

The bad part on this - is that they're not letting competing products 'bypass' the billing (Netflx, YouTube, Hulu) even if they wanted. That's the big deal here.

RR Conductor
NWP RR Inc.,serving NW CA
Premium
join:2002-04-02
Redwood Valley, CA
kudos:1
said by FFH:

Net Neutrality - who cares. This is good for the AT&T wireless customer and allows them to get good reception in the home without incurring additional costs due to cap overages. It is good for AT&T and the customers as it moves congestion from the cell network.

I'm sure the big corporations don't care, they're out to enrich themselves, not the country, or her people.
--


skeechan
Ai Otsukaholic
Premium
join:2012-01-26
AA169|170
kudos:2

1 recommendation

So much for the capacity crunch

Given transit onto the wider internet is mere pennies, whether this data leaves AT&T's network is irrelevant.

Simply more evidence that their caps are unjustified horsecrap.

Either traffic is a problem or it isn't. Obviously it isn't.
34764170

join:2007-09-06
Etobicoke, ON

Re: So much for the capacity crunch

said by skeechan:

Given transit onto the wider internet is mere pennies, whether this data leaves AT&T's network is irrelevant.

Simply more evidence that their caps are unjustified horsecrap.

Either traffic is a problem or it isn't. Obviously it isn't.

There never has been justification for the caps.

Traffic transferred has never been an issue. It's the amount of bandwidth provisioned within the network. Caps are about a mind set of getting users to not use their Internet connection and a means of extorting more revenue from customers from something there isn't a shortage of. So that they can be lazy and not provide you a proper Internet connection and not upgrade their infrastructure. They want to sell faster and faster connections they cannot provide service for properly.

Mizzat
Will post for thumbs
Premium
join:2003-05-03
Atlanta, GA
kudos:1

Seriously? Someone is complaining about this?

Talk about damned if you do, damned if you dont.

NetFixer
Snarl For The Camera Please
Premium
join:2004-06-24
The Boro
Reviews:
·Cingular Wireless
·Comcast Business..
·Vonage

Re: Seriously? Someone is complaining about this?

said by Mizzat:

Talk about damned if you do, damned if you dont.

If it happens (no matter what "it" is), someone is going to complain. And if "it" involves a corporation with deep pockets, someone is going to sue.
--
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

When governments fear people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.
big_e

join:2011-03-05
Reviews:
·Comcast

Some people will never be pleased

First people complain that that the microcells count both against the wireless usage caps and the wireline usage caps which is essentially double billing. AT&T fixes the problem by changing it so that it is billed against only the wireless caps. Then they start complaining about it being a net neutrality violation.

Fine. AT&T should just switch back to double billing again. The consumer groups want want net neutrality, then they will get it. The lawyers win, the customer loses.

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1

Re: Some people will never be pleased

They got it backwards, though. It should not count against the wireless usage cap, and if they impose caps on their internet service, than they should not be allowed to pick and choose what data counts against this cap.

Seriously, we know why it is like this...$$$$.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

1 recommendation

Re: Some people will never be pleased

What I want to know is why are consumers using up their wireless caps while in their residences where these microcells would be located? Why not jump on WiFi? Double tapping caps seems like a non-issue to me.

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1

Re: Some people will never be pleased

Good point. When I get home, one of the first things I do is connect my phone to WiFi and disable the wireless data. On my Android device, I have dedicated buttons on my homepage just for this purpose.

I'm sure most people simply are not aware of the options that are available to them.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: Some people will never be pleased

You don't think most people don't just have their WiFi on all of the time? I have about 20 open access points listed in my Nexus which allows me to utilize WiFi a majority of the time. Honestly, I'd be surprised if people disable their WiFi and aren't intelligent enough to turn it on when home...especially with data caps.

AnonFTW

@reliablehosting.com

Same network

If it doesn't leave the AT&T network, it shouldn't count against caps. This has nothing to do with net neutrality and it's sad that even DSLR is ignoring the fact that caps are there to limit peer exchange bandwidth costs. It's orders of magnitude cheaper to keep traffic on your own network. This situation is no different than the Comcast brouhaha.
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

Re: Same network

While you may be correct on the issue of whether the data leaves their network or not, I wonder if a big file transfer between two AT&T customers is also going to be exempted. This would actually be pretty easy to set up and test. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the meter would indeed be running.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink

Re: Same network

said by ISurfTooMuch:

While you may be correct on the issue of whether the data leaves their network or not, I wonder if a big file transfer between two AT&T customers is also going to be exempted. This would actually be pretty easy to set up and test. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the meter would indeed be running.

So long as the data doesn't traverse the Internet, it isn't subject to network neutrality, so AT&T can choose to count it or not, as they see fit.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO

Re: Same network

WRONG!

Internet traffic is internet traffic. Where it starts and where it ends is not relevant.

They cap and argue about who should pay for the last mile because of data use. That last mile includes every single packet that leaves your modem to the internet regardless of whether or not it stays on their network. Transit cost are small are really irrelevant to this entire conversation.

You and other people trying to claim otherwise are either ill informed about how the internet actually works or have an alternative motive.
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

Re: Same network

And the funny thing is, these ISP's are so difficult to nail down when you want to know where they claim the bottleneck is. Sometimes, it's in the last mile, but then it magically moves to their connection with the rest of the Internet when that suits them better. But then, when the data is being sent from or to one of their other subsidiaries, it's somehow special and doesn't count against the caps.

And the ISP's whine about how much it costs to do network upgrades. Yes, I realize it costs money, but this is the business they elected to go into. All that old copper has been in the ground for decades and has been paid off for many years, yet they want to use it until it completely rots away.

If I allowed AT&T to manage my house's maintenance and upgrades, it'd be cooled by old box fans, heated by radiators, illuminated by oil lamps, food would be kept cold in an icebox (the kind where you had to insert a block of ice each day), and the bathroom would be an outhouse out back.

AnonFTW

@reliablehosting.com
said by Skippy25:

WRONG!

Internet traffic is internet traffic. Where it starts and where it ends is not relevant.

They cap and argue about who should pay for the last mile because of data use. That last mile includes every single packet that leaves your modem to the internet regardless of whether or not it stays on their network. Transit cost are small are really irrelevant to this entire conversation.

You and other people trying to claim otherwise are either ill informed about how the internet actually works or have an alternative motive.

If it doesn't leave the AT&T network, it's not "Internet Traffic." AT&T WAN traffic yes, but it's not true INTERnet traffic until it crosses onto another provider's network.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink
Wrong, wrong, wrong. So wrong.

Internet traffic is only that which traverses the public internet, and only that which is subject to network neutrality. That's what industry agreed to in 2010.

If you want to try to redefine the term today, to apply to private traffic, you not only are going to have a massive fight on your hands, once again, you will not see the results you imagine.
BiggA

join:2005-11-23
EARTH

This is wrong in principle

As are the caps in the first place on a wireline DSL connection where you have dedicated bandwidth back to the VRAD or CO.

However, in practicality, this means literally nothing. The Microcell doesn't use much of any bandwidth. You're looking at maybe a few MB for a phone call, if that. Text messages use effectively zero. It just doesn't affect your home broadband usage, as it falls WAY below the noise level of random broadband usage. Watch one YouTube video, and you've used more than the MicroCell will in an entire month.
navalpatel

join:2003-07-28
Richardson, TX

Slippery Slope

If you're an AT&T DSL or U-Verse and have AT&T mobile phone service, there's no adverse impact to you.

What if you're an AT&T DSL or U-Verse customer and using Verizon or Sprint's femtocell or T-Mobile's UMA tech (if T-Mobile is still even actively selling devices that take advantage of it)? In this case, more than likely, you won't be impacted either unless you regularly hit or get close to hitting your cap. ... so there's no downside, then, right? Wrong.

It's a slippery slope. If Verizon were to implement a cap on FiOS services and exempted its femtocell - paralleling the case at hand, the issue and arguments for and against such a policy would be the same as those present on this thread. What if Verizon went one step further and chose to not only exempt the traffic carried by Verizon Wireless' femtocells but also exempted traffic resulting from Redbox Instant (Redbox and Verizon Wireless' joint venture)? Netflix would be at a disadvantage and would likely be less popular in these areas (and thus, economically harmed) because customers would not risk overages from the use of Redbox Instant.

If the internet service provider wants to exempt a certain class of traffic, I think that's probably less cause for concern. To selectively pick entities in which that provider has a vested economic stake is self-dealing and most certainly indicative of anti-competitive behavior.

If AT&T eventually chooses to not asses a byte count on data used while on a femtocell, AT&T DSL or U-Verse users and users of AT&T' mobile have an immediate loophole to their data caps. Ensure their phone is using the AT&T femtocell and use it as an access point for more data intensive uses. I'm not sure how much the connection through AT&T's femtocell affects a user's mobile internet speed, but I imagine for users wanting to avoid overages, this would be of little inconvenience.
Joe12345678

join:2003-07-22
Des Plaines, IL

people with att and directv deals should get directv VOD dat

people with att and directv deals should get directv VOD data cap free as well.
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH

Re: people with att and directv deals should get directv VOD dat

the data that DTV uses is NOT on the ATT network though. It goes back to DTV.
morisato

join:2008-03-16
Oshawa, ON
Reviews:
·TekSavvy Cable
·TekSavvy DSL
·ELECTRONICBOX

How stupid can ya be?

The way i read this If Your on at&t dsl/uverse they will let your microcell traffic go free. Nice for them, If your not they are being anti competitive? because Some other traffic provider will bill you for it? ROFL. So then to ensure they are not being anti Competitive They need to Bill for microcell data usage check. Bills on the way enjoy?
--
Every time Someone leaves Sympatico an Angel gets its wings.

Selenia
I love Debian
Premium
join:2006-09-22
Fort Smith, AR
kudos:2

Re: How stupid can ya be?

To not be anticompetitive, they could go the other way and not bill for any other carrier's femtocell. Oh wait! I forgot this is greedy corporate America. Yup you're right, that's funny!
morisato

join:2008-03-16
Oshawa, ON
Reviews:
·TekSavvy Cable
·TekSavvy DSL
·ELECTRONICBOX

1 edit

Re: How stupid can ya be?

How would they do that ? You expect them to go out of pocket to Identify every carriers Femtocell devices? How are they Supposed to KNOW Its a femtocell? And this is totally different than Making 1 Websites traffic free this is a Device Not a Website, The 2 are apples and oranges Preferring one sites traffic over another Obviously Not fair, Allowing Your device to surf free, And not Competitions Not at all the same thing- You can control your device configure it and know how to detect its traffic, Third party device No way to Know - Unless all the Mobile operators get cozy and make a Femtocell Standard.
--
Every time Someone leaves Sympatico an Angel gets its wings.

Selenia
I love Debian
Premium
join:2006-09-22
Fort Smith, AR
kudos:2

Re: How stupid can ya be?

There's generally only a handful of carriers offering them in most regions of the United States. And most of those will run off of 1 the big four's network. Doesn't seem that hard to me. But as a corporation to make money, they would just rather bill Femtocell use, if things come to a head about network neutrality. My wired service is uncapped, so I just use Google Voice and VoIP to make quality calls without bothering with a femtocell(and ridiclous terms) or paying for one. Nice that GV has extensive forwarding options, letting loved ones, friends, and business associates only juggle 1 number, even if I change VoIP or cell providers.
--
A fool thinks they know everything.

A wise person knows enough to know they couldn't possibly know everything.

There are zealots for every OS, like every religion. They do not represent the majority of users for either.
morisato

join:2008-03-16
Oshawa, ON
Reviews:
·TekSavvy Cable
·TekSavvy DSL
·ELECTRONICBOX

Re: How stupid can ya be?

heh Femtocell doesn;t even exist in canada last i checked p:0 otherwise i would so get one for wind and use it P:) since my house is right on fringe! my own portable cellular tower rofl.
--
Every time Someone leaves Sympatico an Angel gets its wings.
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse
·MegaPath

Violation???

How does this violate net neutrality? Especially when there really is no such thing????? These groups can cry all they want but at the end of the day the FCC and everyone else has no control over the Internet and this unless it becomes an anti-trust issue and we all know that AT&T is NOT going to be brought up on anti-trust issues anytime soon.