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AT&T to Cap Data Usage May 2

11 Apr, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Possible effect on Netflix and Amazon not immediately known

As expected, AT&T will soon impose limits on the amount of broadband data — notably movies and TV shows — subscribers can download from the Internet on a monthly basis without paying additional fees.

AT&T's residential DSL plans will have a usage allowance of 150 gigabytes (GB) per month, while residential U-verse plans will have a usage allowance of 250GB per month.

The caps amount to about 100 hours per month of TV programming for DSL users and 200 hours for U-verse. The caps would limit users to 20 movie downloads in standard definition (25 for U-verse) and 10 (13 for U-verse) in high definition.

Caps also include the ability to send/receive 10,000 emails, 3,000 photos (4,000 for U-verse), 2,000 (3,000 for U-verse) songs and 5,000 one-minute YouTube videos (the same for U-verse).

Subscribers who exceed the limits will be billed $10 per month (following two monthly warnings) for each additional 50GB used.

The telco said it is capping non-business customers after it experienced a “dramatic increase” in the amount of data downloaded by select households. Indeed, AT&T said an increasing minority (just 2%) of its subscriber base was utilizing 20% of its total network. It said these frequent users could utilize the equivalent data of 19 standard-use 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,” AT&T said in a statement.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in fiscal calls has reiterated concern regarding planned data caps domestically and in Canada. In a January letter to investors, Hastings said cost incurred by large ISPs (such as AT&T) delivering Netflix streaming from one of its regional interchange points “the last mile” to a consumer costs “less than a penny,” and is declining.

“There is no reason that pay-per-gigabyte is economically necessary,” Hastings wrote.

AT&T subscribers can monitor their broadband usage at .

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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