Starting Monday, AT&T will place a cap on its broadband Internet services. Following Comcast’s broadband cap and AT&T being the number two carrier in the U.S., the majority of the U.S. broadband Internet will now be saddled with a cap. AT&T will be placing a 150 GB monthly cap on its DSL users and a 250 GB monthly cap for its UVerse users.
AT&T plans to charge an extra $10 a month if users go over their designated cap, with a recurring $10 charge for each 50 GB over the cap the user goes. Not counting torrent and other nefarious data usage, Wired points out that the 150 GB and 250 GB caps may at first seem like a decent amount, but in this day and age of Netflix and online gaming, those caps could easily be reached. Wired does a bit of the Netflix math, and states that streaming standard content ranges anywhere from .3 GB an hour to 1.0 GB an hour, whereas streaming HD content can max out at 2.3 GB an hour. This may not seem like a lot, but in a household with more than one resident, the data usage can climb extremely high, based solely on average usage: Assuming a standard four-person family home has Netflix, and each stream their own HD video content, they could hit over 10 GB usage per hour and breach their DSL cap in only 15 or so hours. This, of course, isn’t even considering torrent downloads or online gaming.
Though one may think the employment of a cap is a way to reduce costs, Wired points out that broadband costs aren’t exactly sucking broadband providers dry, and the real reason companies are slapping caps on their services is to fix congestion:
The drive to cap usage is ostensibly a way to reduce costs. But in reality, it’s not about the cost of data – bandwidth costs are extremely low and keep falling. Time Warner Cable brought in $1.13 billion in revenue from broadband customers in the first three months of 2011, while spending only $36 million for bandwidth — a mere 3 percent of the revenue…
The real problem ISPs want to fix is congestion due to limited infrastructure. Cable customers share what are known as local loops, and the more that your neighbors use their connection, the less bandwidth is available to you — a situation that becomes painfully clear in the evening, when cable users see their throughput fall.
With AT&T’s entry into the ring of bandwidth caps, it looks like we’re headed toward a throttled — or extremely expensive — future of the Internet.