AT&T today rolled out major change to its DSL terms of service, notifying its customers of new data caps, network management rules, and usage metering tools.
Here’s why the caps are coming:
AT&T has experienced a dramatic increase in the amount of data that is sent and received over its wireline broadband networks. This dramatic increase is driven primarily by a small fraction of our customers. In fact, the top 2 percent of customers use about 20 percent of the total capacity on our network. A single high-traffic user can utilize the same amount of data capacity as 19 typical households. Lopsided usage patterns can cause congestion at certain points in the network, which can slow Internet speeds and interfere with other customers’ access to and use of the network.
The company maintained Friday that the number of users affected will be few. In statements, AT&T has said its typical user only consumes around 18 gigabytes of bandwidth per month.
“Less than 2 percent of our Internet customers could be impacted by this approach: those who are using a disproportionate amount of bandwidth,” said company spokeswoman Meredith Adams.
AT&T plans to notify users when they hit 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their allocated usage, the company has said. While AT&T is legally able to do this, it does appear they are encouraging people to leave AT&T and go to other providers.
It’s important to note that the AT&T policy does not inherently conflict with the much-debated net neutrality principle.
The net neutrality philosophy, which supporters say should be upheld by government regulations, is that all legal Internet traffic should be treated equally. A data cap doesn’t discriminate against specific types of traffic, unlike Comcast’s attempts to slow down data sent via USENET newsgroup services, which was the spark for the current political and legal debate.
It does appear that AT&T is less interested in keeping their customers happy and more concerned about getting money to the bottom line.