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AT&T Begins a Trial To Cap, Meter Internet Usage 421

Posted by kdawson
from the unlimited-is-just-a-word dept.
An anonymous reader writes "On the heels of Comcast's decision to implement a 250-GB monthly cap, and Time Warner Cable's exploration of caps and overage fees, DSL Reports notes that AT&T is launching a metered billing trial of their own in Reno, Nevada. According to a filing with the FCC (PDF), AT&T's existing tiers, which range from 768 kbps to 6 Mbps, would see caps ranging from 20 GB to 150 GB per month. Users who exceed those caps would pay an additional $1 per gigabyte, per month."
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AT&T Begins a Trial To Cap, Meter Internet Usage

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  • ... I wonder if this is an easy way of coming down on net neutrality, under the guise of being "rational".

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:47PM (#25621965)
      Nothing to do with net neutrality as long as you meter all traffic the same way.
      • by z4ce (67861) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:56AM (#25622409)

        True. But they won't meter all traffic the same way. Movies on "ATT Movies" won't count against the tier. They will partner with lets say Amazon for unmetered music downloads. In all practicality,, this is the end of net-neutrality.

        • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @01:19AM (#25622563)

          So why don't we get together and start municipal fiber projects in our respective towns? I mean, municipalities can get cheap bonds to build out the infrastructure, and than let companies sell internet access over the fiber (similar to how Speakeasy/Covad can sell ILEC DSL lines). Are we not tired of this bullshit yet?

          • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @01:30AM (#25622633)
            Yeah but that's communism and evil and prevents competition.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by TooMuchToDo (882796)

              Excuse we while I wipe the dripping sarcasm off your post =) On a serious note, I intend to pursue the muni broadband idea with my local town, as they already tried to do it once and got smacked by Comcast.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Please keep up with current events. Your current Evil that threatens your way of life are Terrorists, not Communists. :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by characterZer0 (138196)

            Because the local ISPs will throw money at city councils to have them kill the projects.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:56AM (#25622411)

        Nothing to do with net neutrality as long as you meter all traffic the same way.

        The next step is clearly going to be "free" downloads from paying partners.
        Unless there is a radical change in direction, I give it no more than 2 years before we see the first such offering.

        $1/gigabyte is just too prohibitive in a market where netflix and others are offering pseudo-HDTV movie downloads to anyone with a game console, the time is coming.

      • by compro01 (777531) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @01:26AM (#25622607)

        And if you think they are going to meter their partners (aka : people who pay them money), you should share what you're smoking. Barring regulation forcing them to meter everything, this is a direct path to the end of net neutrality.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:20PM (#25621697) Homepage Journal
    At least they should be required by law to use sarcastic air quotes when they say "Unlimited." I don't buy their attempts to redefine "Unlimited", either. That's pretty much my definition of "Consumer fraud".
    • by nizo (81281) * on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:25PM (#25621747) Homepage Journal

      The best part is they will probably raise their rates, since all that extra monitoring to bring you quality service costs money don'tchyaknow :-\

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Karsaroth (1064806)
      If they work anything like those in Australia, then they wont be advertised as unlimited, but the actual cap will be in small print. Still, most ISPs here give you tools to monitor your usage, so hopefully the same will be implemented in the US. Why not shape rather than charge extra though?
      • by GrpA (691294) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:44PM (#25621927)

        Why not shape?

        Because $1 per Gb is a lot less than it costs in Australia, which depending on the plan/carrier, still charges up to $10,000 per additional Gb...

        Shaping/Policing is just a way of making people upgrade their accounts without the original infraction costing them the earth. It's a lot fairer, but it still leaves you unable to do a lot with your connection one it cuts in.

        Actually, in the long run, just about all content will be accessible by net, but some will require serious bandwidth. Having caps works with the net as it is today, but it stifles innovation because it also limits what is commercially viable on the Internet and people adjust their usage to meet costs and available bandwidth levels and the carriers find it helps manage their bandwidth requirements, so they stop adding new capacity and find other ways to make their existing infrastructure go further.

        Youtube? Myspace? Never would have happened in Australia. We're still working on models that were in place when modems were the dominant technology.

        And a typical cap is around 5gb over here - Far less than the 250 Gb mentioned... Not enough to watch online movies even casually. 20Gb is considered a "Big" plan over here and pretty much no one can afford 250Gb for non professional (commercial) use.

        Because the caps are so small, there is no business driver to keep upgrading infrastructure...

        It's the same old story that we've seen forever. If a resource is essentially free and limitless, you can only make it commercially viable by restricting it's supply by some means. Music, Water, Electricity, Freedom, you name it. The less it's available, the more it costs you. Information is no different.

        The reason they don't create new dams or build new ecologically friendly power stations isn't because they can't - it's because it's more commercially viable to retain limited availability of these resources.

        GrpA

        p.s. Most ISPs in Australia that "Shape" don't actually Shape - they Police - ie, drop packets that exceed the burst rate of the connection. That causes a much lower throughput than shaping does.

        • by mechsoph (716782)

          The reason they don't create new dams or build new ecologically friendly power stations isn't because they can't - it's because it's more commercially viable to retain limited availability of these resources.

          Well if clean energy can be sold for so much more than the cost to produce, get together with a couple hundred friends and dam up the local river/build a solar plant/raise 1000 windmills. If there was money to be made, then somebody would be doing it. When there's competition, capitalism works beautif

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by pcolaman (1208838)
          Did I read you right? $10,000 per Gb?! Might as well just say One Million Dollars! mwahahaha
        • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @02:09AM (#25622905) Homepage Journal

          And a typical cap is around 5gb over here - Far less than the 250 Gb mentioned... Not enough to watch online movies even casually. 20Gb is considered a "Big" plan over here and pretty much no one can afford 250Gb for non professional (commercial) use.

          What "Australia" are you living in?
          5gig would be an entry level account, not a "typical" one. 20 gig would be a low end one.

          I have a 50 gig plan [tpg.com.au] from TPG. I haven't paid more for internet for as long as I can remember and year after year my bandwidth cap has increased in a way that has been more than sufficient for increased usage.

          Youtube? Myspace? Never would have happened in Australia.

          Of course, but it's largely a factor of our geography. Data doesn't magically get from A to B and when you are as far away from pretty much everything (including the other side of the same country) the economics are inevitably different to places that are more centrally located and/or have high population densities of their own.

          It isn't (entirely) a lack of imagination or drive to find a better alternative to "models that were in place when modems were the dominant technology." It's a reflection of physical reality.

          Because the caps are so small, there is no business driver to keep upgrading infrastructure...

          I think that is fundamentally incorrect. The tiered cap approach means that demand increases justify infrastructure purchases with extra income.

          • by cibyr (898667) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @03:01AM (#25623155) Journal

            Of course, but it's largely a factor of our geography. Data doesn't magically get from A to B and when you are as far away from pretty much everything (including the other side of the same country) the economics are inevitably different to places that are more centrally located and/or have high population densities of their own.

            That's bullshit. The population density of Australia's capital cities is way higher than that of America. People point at Australia's low population density and say "that's why we have slow internets!", but they fail to notice that most of our country is desert, and most of our population is clustered in a few cities (more than half of our population lives in just 4 cities).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by rdnetto (955205)

        Why not shape rather than charge extra though?

        Because then they wouldn't have as much revenue. If their bandwidth really were limited, they would shape to reduce congestion. But they've got plenty, so they impose an artificial limit and charge you extra for going over it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fluffeh (1273756)
      Hey, for all you American's, this is almost like saying "Welcome to Australia mate!" except your internet is probably still cheaper than ours. On the upside at least our ISP's now generally advertise just how much data you get with your plan - and generally if you go over, you don't get billed, but it gets throttled to a 64kb line.
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        Well that's what bugs me about it. They'll advertise the plan as "Unlimited," put the rate caps in the fine print and a significant number of consumers won't realize it until they get cut off.

        I'm just as happy to pay a bit more per month for a company that only does Internet, especially since they also have a competent tech support. Hell I'd much rather drop $200 a month for a fractional T1 than put up with that crap from a phone or cable company.

    • speaker wire (Score:5, Interesting)

      by epine (68316) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:02AM (#25622071)

      Speaker wire is the reason "unlimited" will never exist in pure form. The same people who purchase $8,000 speaker wires are quite convinced that even if they were capped at 1TB/hour for their holographic porn, it would still be a curly hair shy of the real thing.

      I'd have no problem with capped download if the cap decayed at a sensible exponential rate, the same way that gmail's free storage ticks ever upward. If the cap doubled every two years (corresponding to a 40% annual cost reduction in the cost of carrying traffic, which I'm certain the optical portions of the backbone achieve), then ten years from now, the current monthly cap would have evolved into the daily cap. At that rate, you're already watching a three hour HD movie every day of your life, or multibooting every Linux distro that every existed at the same time onto your 256 core processor.

      Depending on the cost of your speaker wire, this might or might not suffice.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Hell, I wish that Gmail's free storage grew at a sensible exponential rate. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure it grows at a logarithmic rate...

    • by prockcore (543967)

      It's not consumer fraud, it's misleading, but it's not fraud.

      Unlimited is a hold-over from the dial up days.. when you only had, say, 300 minutes a month.

      Think of it as a cellphone that has unlimited minutes, but a bandwidth cap.

      • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @07:34AM (#25624249) Homepage

        It's not consumer fraud, it's misleading, but it's not fraud.

        No, it's fraud. Unlimited, meaning no limit is applied. A cap is a limit. They would be directly claiming something that is not true in order to inflate the perceived value of a product or service.

        Markets require a strict enforcement of truth in order to function effectively. Had ISPs been jumped on for their lies earlier in the game, nobody would dare to implement caps now.

  • $1 per GB? (Score:4, Informative)

    by arthurh3535 (447288) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:20PM (#25621701)
    They do realize that they are getting up to the point in cost that they will be driving people *back* DVDs and other media, right? Blue-Ray suddenly sounds like a deal for movies.

    And driving away customers to a better paying deal is not a good thing in any market, much less a harsh modern market in the post-speculator market of today.

    Idiots. They should be making sure they are making a reasonable profit without shoving off your potential customers.
    • Software updates (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DataBroker (964208) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:29PM (#25621799)
      How about software updates? I'm just curious if software sellers will be coerced into offering quality software on the original install disks, or mailed updates, instead of just expecting that every user will happily download 1/4 of their monthly cap just to keep software current.
      • Re:Software updates (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:05AM (#25622083) Journal

        Actually updates give MSFT a very big boost. The plans here in North AR are 25Gb-$35(DSL) or 36Gb-$45(cable),but in both cases they don't count Windows updates or anything coming from the Microsoft Kb sites,since they would rather you go get the updates. Of course since the cap my trying different distros is pretty much toast,and of course any updates you get from say Ubuntu or Red Hat count against your cap.

        Mark my words,they are ALL going to end up with crappy 20-40Gb caps unless you pay through the nose. Then we'll see how quick sites like Youtube dry up without anyone able to watch the vids. BTW,whatever happened to all that money and tax breaks we gave the telecoms throughout the 90's to upgrade our infrastructure? And what about all those miles and miles of dark fiber that was left after the dotbomb bust of 2K? I have a feeling we are all about to get really screwed.

    • by westlake (615356)
      They do realize that they are getting up to the point in cost that they will be driving people *back* DVDs and other media, right? Blue-Ray suddenly sounds like a deal for movies.

      .

      and this is a problem for Time-Warner, because?

      The Dark Knight (+ Digital Copy and BD Live) [Blu-ray] (2008) [amazon.com] $24

    • $1 per GB? I wish I could get broadband that cheaply. I doubt it will drive people back to anything -- not at those prices.

  • by JWman (1289510) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:23PM (#25621731)
    I'm fine with schemes like this provided the ISP makes it perfectly clear and obvious when you sign up what your download limitations are and the costs of running over. This allows consumers to make an educated choice about which provider they want to use. Unfortunately, I see this being shoved in the fine print while still advertising "unlimited" internet access. I mean, we are dealing with telecom companies here. I know my bill is a surprise about every other month after all the "taxes and fees" are tacked on to the advertised base price...
    • by QCompson (675963) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:36PM (#25621867)

      I'm fine with schemes like this provided the ISP makes it perfectly clear and obvious when you sign up what your download limitations are and the costs of running over. This allows consumers to make an educated choice about which provider they want to use. Unfortunately, I see this being shoved in the fine print while still advertising "unlimited" internet access. I mean, we are dealing with telecom companies here. I know my bill is a surprise about every other month after all the "taxes and fees" are tacked on to the advertised base price...

      That's all well and good in markets where customers actually have a choice. In the markets where the options are Cable Company A or dial-up, the heavy internet-usage customers lose out and end up paying the exorbitant price of $1 per gigabyte.

    • by skroops (1237422) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:14AM (#25622147)
      I'm fine with schemes like this provided the ISP makes it perfectly clear and obvious when you sign up what your download limitations are and the costs of running over. This allows consumers to make an educated choice about which provider they want to use.

      Most customers have no idea what 50GB or 150GB monthly caps would mean. I definitely wouldn't expect my mom to be able to make an educated choice about usage caps.

      Hell, I'm good with PCs and I don't know how much bandwidth I would need in a month. How many people would really know how much bandwidth they use when you consider flash advertisements, youtube, etc.?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cbiltcliffe (186293)

        Most customers have no idea what 50GB or 150GB monthly caps would mean. I definitely wouldn't expect my mom to be able to make an educated choice about usage caps.

        Hell, I'm good with PCs and I don't know how much bandwidth I would need in a month. How many people would really know how much bandwidth they use when you consider flash advertisements, youtube, etc.?

        I've used exactly 98.01 GB in the past month.
        That's with 4 Debian servers, 2 XP , 1 2K, 1 Debian desktops, an old NT4 fax server, and a pile of customer machines, many of which had the full gamut of Windows updates done. Although I've got service packs on my fileserver, so only the hotfixes get downloaded every time.

        This is also with a completely unsecured wireless hotspot. Yes, the wireless is firewalled off from anything on my network, but I have no idea who's used it besides me. Although the wireless

  • by Pollux (102520) <<ge.ten.atadet> <ta> <reteps>> on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:26PM (#25621755) Journal

    Was in the age of Dial-Up. I remember that there were a few ISPs back in the mid '90s that charged $20/month for a limited amount of time online...somewhere between 30 to 50 hours per month. But when other ISPs offered unlimited time online for the same price (or $25 to $30 per month), it was a no-brainer.

    Of course, this was also back when even a mid-size municipal city (80,000+ population) could have three or four local ISPs to choose from.

    Now, if you live in a place like Minneapolis, your only choices are Comcast or Qwest. If both decide to switch to a capped bandwidth, you're screwed.

    • by zakezuke (229119)

      Was in the age of Dial-Up. I remember that there were a few ISPs back in the mid '90s that charged $20/month for a limited amount of time online...somewhere between 30 to 50 hours per month. But when other ISPs offered unlimited time online for the same price (or $25 to $30 per month), it was a no-brainer.

      My first ISP was well, like $7.50/month unlimited. They went tits up. My second ISP didn't, it was either $15 or $20. They didn't meter but they had a policy of 2hrs on 2hrs off, or was it 4hrs on 4hrs off. A little e-mail reminded you if you exceeded their recommendation. It worked out pretty well actually since they had little objection to being excessive at night, which was in the spirit of their agreement. While I stuck with them, the "other guys" were either offering unlimited, or more for the sa

  • 60gigs in Canada (Score:3, Informative)

    by damang111 (1399783) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:27PM (#25621767)
    that's nothing. Rogers has a 60gig limit here in Canada.
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Telebec's limit is 35 GiB (Quebec, Canada).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I can only laugh when I read this from South Africa, where I am paying $20 per month for a 1 GiB capped account, with $7 per gig if I want to buy more. So cry me a river -- the bandwidth in America (or Canada) is crazy cheap.
      • by DigitAl56K (805623) * on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @02:49AM (#25623107)

        Yes,

        Let's all compare the price of bandwidth technology and services to South Africa, which is clearly similar in terms of technology, development, architecture, services, service density, e-tailers, and so forth. Makes a whole lot of sense. Maybe in 10-15 years time when you've got used to unlimited broadband and cable and your ISPs start throttling your traffic, dropping packets, killing connections, imposing caps and raising prices someone from another developing nation can ask you to cry them a river.

        Back to the US: It's ridiculous that the ISPs can't/won't upgrade their infrastructure to cope with rising demand for bandwidth and instead degrade service and (likely) increase prices. $1/GB is unreasonable. I hope the government investigates the cost to industry growth and development in terms of limiting the adoption of services like Netflix online and other high bandwidth services. Of course, some of these ISPs have a vested interested in making services like Netflix less likely to succeed, just as they had an interest in shutting down their usenet services completely unrelated to protecting children.

        In the interest of protecting competition and consumer choice I'd like to see regulation preventing these kind of caps and/or charges in areas where two or fewer ISPs constitute a regional monopoly on internet services.

  • by Albanach (527650) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:27PM (#25621769) Homepage

    Personally I'm supportive of published caps. We know hidden ones have existed for some time. It's far better if you know you're buying 20GB of bandwidth or 100GB and it's fair if those using 100GB aren't subsidised by those using 20.

    Don't whine that you bought an unlimited connection for $30/month and you should get to use it without penalty. I do agree connections should never have been sold as unlimited (indeed this addresses that very point) but you're an idiot if you think current networks to the home in the US can deliver that sort of bandwidth at that sort of cost.

    The problem in the US is the lack of competition. This should allow prices to be driven down. Our parents and grandparents should be able to buy uber cheap 2GB/month packages.

    Look at the UK where almost everyone with a phone line can pick from dozens of DSL providers. Competition helps keep prices in check. More expensive providers offer better customer service etc.

    But there's so little competition in the US market that there's serious potential for this to be almost all negative.

    What makes even less sense is the varying of both bandwidth and capacity. If you're metering the connection, there's no reason at all that everyone shouldn't get the fastest connection available. That's also how it works in the UK.

    What's the point of artificially slowing down data for those on the 20GB tariff who in fact are paying more per byte for the data?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ritcereal (1399801)
      Your logic doesn't add up.

      You are for published bandwidth caps that are substantially lower than the 'artificial' unknowns of yesterday? I know I've transfered more than 100GB a month...in fact I've transfered 455 GB this past month have have heard NOTHING from my ISP. (btw thats BYTES not bits, and which do you think the telco's will use?)

      You also say not to whine about bandwidth caps for $30 a month. Well lets think about this. If you can find $4 per mb/sec connectivity from Cogent...so yea lets
    • by timeOday (582209)
      I don't object to caps on principle, but the AT&T cap is just too low! I subscribe to 768Kbps Comcast. It's fast enough for VOIP and youtube, and the 250GB cap isn't cumbersome. But a mere 20 GB cap? That's only 10 GB of bittorrent content, since you have to upload to download. I don't know whether I download that much per much, but it's too close for comfort.
  • by Slur (61510) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:31PM (#25621813) Homepage Journal

    When your bandwidth cap is exceeded your ports are all shut except 80. Your web browser can only get AT&T's page. You have options to (a) pay for another XXX GB of transfer or (b) upgrade your plan.

    It ain't all that hard to do this. Making people pay a dollar-per-gigabyte without giving them notice that they've exceeded their limit is clearly not informing the user.

    Tag this story lawsuitwaitingtohappen, whatcanpossiblygowrong, goodluckwiththat, monopoly, luserunfriendly and !cool.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      New Zealand implements a system that seems to work well although the prices are still a little too high for my liking...

      You have a published cap, and if you exceed that, you either pay for additional traffic or are throttled to dial-up speed for the rest of the billing period (usually month).

      Prices vary a lot for additional traffic and some ISPs do gouge quite deep...

    • What you describe is exactly how Telkom handles their ADSL connections in South Africa, except you can access all local pages instead of just theirs. Of course, there aren't that many interesting South African websites.
  • Cost effectiveness (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheebie (459397) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:34PM (#25621839)

    So now they will need to monitor the amount of bandwidth you use, set up a database to keep track of it, change their billing software so it can deal with variable billing, and verify that the customer actually paid the (variable) correct amount. All to collect a few bucks from a few customers.

    There's a reason the phone companies go to unlimited calling plans. It means they save big bucks on the hardware and software needed to keep track of your usage. Those systems are not cheap and they eat into the computing power that could be used for routing calls. So instead they jack up your bill by the average amount you would spend, and let you go to town. They still get the money, but they don't have to maintain (as much of) a billing system.

    AT&T will try this for a while, realize it's a losing proposition that annoys their customers, and go back to the way it was.

    (This assumes rational behavior, of course. That is definitely not a given)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mysidia (191772)

      Ah, but the software modifications are a one-time cost. And the additional metered usage is a revenue source.

      They may size the caps so everyone exceeds it a little, thus a subtle price increase to pay for it.

      It's not particularly expensive to have software automatically add fees.

      Historically, the manual human work required in usage billing was costly.

      Now the telcos have it down to an art: due to the advent of cell phones.

      Nickel and diming customers for things like $0.10 a text message and $.20

      • by pcolaman (1208838) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:19AM (#25622187)
        You make one big wrong assumption here. You assume the software modifications will go as planned and nothing will be wrong with it and therefore it'll be a one-time cost. First off, I've worked for an ISP that drastically changed the way they track usage and manage ports and it went horrible. It caused so many people to get false AUP captures that it was a fucking nightmare for me as a tech support person answering the phones. Was shut off after a while. Also, you assume that the software, once installed, will not need to be maintained. There is always a cost over time in new software because you need people to maintain and upgrade/service it. That means an increase in the staffing they have on hand, or outsourcing the support to the company that provides the software. Either way, that's extra periodic cost, not a one-time deal.
  • At 1Mbyte per sec, its 250000 seconds worth, or about 30 days worth.

    If you could sustain 1Mbyte per sec that's not a bad rate. One would think that if the system was overloaded, you would fall below that. So what technical purpose can such a limit have? It doesn't seem like it has anything to do with demand management. Realistically its for creating tiered pricing structures - that's the only purpose for which it makes any sense.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:40PM (#25621885) Journal

    One upside to a unilateral application of bandwidth billing by the ISPs: The implications for Botnets and other malware.

      - It provides a financial incentive to users to get their machines cleaned out and keep them that way.
      - It provides an easily measurable cost of the traffic imposed by malware, which can then be used in prosecutions against those who deploy and use it.

    Which brings up other issues:

      - Will AT&T bill for incoming packets? Even those not solicited?
      - If you're charged for all incoming packets how do you STOP somebody's botnet from sending you packets? DDoS attacks could become Distributed Denial of Funds...
      - Will they charge for ICMP packets?
      - How about the packets they use to communicate with and control their modem (which don't even get to the customer's interface)?

    • by BalorTFL (766196) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:59PM (#25622053)

      Which brings up other issues:

      - Will AT&T bill for incoming packets? Even those not solicited?
      - If you're charged for all incoming packets how do you STOP somebody's botnet from sending you packets? DDoS attacks could become Distributed Denial of Funds...
      - Will they charge for ICMP packets?
      - How about the packets they use to communicate with and control their modem (which don't even get to the customer's interface)?

      From extensive research on the behavior of modern ISP's, I can answer all of your questions with 100% certainty, including the one you didn't type out:

      - Yes, Hell yes.
      - You can't.
      - They will.
      - Of course.
      - Lube will cost extra.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:43PM (#25621915)

    If you don't qualify for the faster packages there should be no higher then the next level bill. as if you only qualify for 768k and you do 80GB of usage ($80) over instead of the $5- $20 more for the higher levels. They should make it line max with prices levels for how much download that you want. As well having roll over like there cell phone plan has.

  • At least it's in the right order of magnitude.

    Really fair pricing would be like some electric companies: A small "account charge," say, $3/month, and a per-GB or even per-MB fee with no minimum.

    If ISPs did this, the "fair" price would probably be somewhere between $1 and $5 for the "account charge" and between $0.05 and $0.50/GB for traffic. A 60GB user might pay $35, a 240GB user might pay $125. It would break the economic model for things like "Netflix online" unless they used really tight compression,

  • This download quota system is standard practice in Australia. They typically fall into 2 categories - fixed monthly cost (when the quota is reached, your speed is throttled back to dial-up) and uncapped (charged $X for downloads exceeding the quota).

    Many plans also count traffic in both directions toward your quota, so the uploads generated by P2P software can result in a significant reduction in your download traffic.

    The uncapped charges can be EXTREMELY nasty - for example the Telstra BigPond plans
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by skam240 (789197) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:58PM (#25622035)

    I wonder if I could sue my town or state in so limiting my internet choices through government granted monopoly. Given that all of the major players (who get the government granted monopolies) all seem to be moving towards usage caps it would be nice if it was easier for competitors to enter the market. Particularly with download and upload speeds comparable to cable and without the lag of satellite services.

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday November 03, 2008 @11:59PM (#25622047) Homepage
    Can I be a co-sysop of the slashdot BBS?

    Seriously, billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies and all I got was this lousy duopoly.

  • When I got a full UseNet feed for my BBS, halluc.com, in 1990, UUNet was charging $2/hour for a 9600bps dialup connection. That comes out to about $1/MB.

    Now, take your current Internet access bill and multiply it by 1000. So stop complaining.

    (Yes, yes, get off my lawn, too.)

  • Woo hoo!

    I'll just go have a T1 dropped now. I'll be cheaper in the long run.

  • New Entrants? (Score:5, Informative)

    by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:19AM (#25622185)

    I noticed that here in Pittsburgh, we have a relatively new entrant into the DSL space (Cavtel) who are offering the maximum possible speeds(up to 8 Mb/s, depending on line quality) with no caps and no tiers and they advertise a price lower than Verizon's 3 Mb/s service. Basically, they set themselves up as a CLEC and have access to the last-mile copper and their own backbone (probably transit) links.

    I wonder if the caps will make it profitable for more of this type of activity to take place? Could we see some alternative DSL providers open up shop?

  • Luckily... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dahamma (304068)

    ...my AT&T DSL service is so slow I don't think I could reach those caps anyway.

  • ...just to watch it die.

  • by wikinerd (809585) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:48AM (#25622375) Journal

    Will the users have the option to choose between paying for the extra bandwidth or cutting off or slowing the data link when the cap is exceeded?

    Some users prefer to know that in no event they are going to pay more and would prefer a dead datalink to an unexpected bill.

    Actually many of these users prefer this because they don't trust the ISPs to do correct billing: there are many stories of companies around the world, both private and state-owned, that send massive bills at random just to collect more revenue whenever their stock price goes down and want to show better results for the next quarter investor's report.

    This thing happens regularly around the world with water utilities, power utilities, telephone operators, mobile phone companies, and Internet providers, primarily in countries where political corruption is high and the law doesn't work.

    I don't know whether such things happen in the US, but in other countries it is as regular as rain in the winter and many users specifically try to find fixed-price plans in order not to let providers do this to them.

    So, if a company wants to attract those users who are cautious, then it should offer an option to either switch off the datalink until the next month or slow it down to 64 or 128kbps when the cap is exceeded, until again next month (or other billing period).

  • The Internet is out there waiting for us to use it. The ISPs are trying to stifle our use of it.

    I use legal services on the Internet to consume media.

    Tivo
    Hulu
    Netflix instant
    Xbox Live
    gaming both PC and Xbox
    downloading Linux updates
    amazon unbox
    itunes
    amazon mp3
    pandora radio
    revision3 TV
    Steam store
    EA online store

    I use all of these services and depending on the month, usage may be more than 250GB.

    Not only is it not consumer friendly, but it's a step in the wrong direction.

    This should set off alarms at apple, amazon, netflix, nbc, microsoft, and other media conglomerates.

    If we don't have the transfer available, we can't consume these services.

    • I think all of this is a prelude to the ISP's trying to squeeze extra revenue from content providers, by setting up 'partnership' deals where the bandwidth cap doesn't apply to the partnered content providers.

      E.g. Amazon pays the ISP some amount of money per month for the privilege of getting truly unlimited bandwidth to the customers.

      If the content providers are smart, they will all band together to 'educate' consumers about this, and setup a website with information about competing ISPs which are availabl

  • by Casandro (751346) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @01:35AM (#25622683)

    I mean seriously, you pay your ISP to constantly upgrade their equipment. It doesn't cost much to run it so much of the money should go to upgrades. If they don't manage to be able to do that, they should go out of business.

    I mean it's not like you have to dig up the road and lay new fibers. You can use wavelength multiplexing to get more and more data onto those.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavelength-division_multiplexing [wikipedia.org]

    If nothing is done, the US will fall even further behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access.

    Furthermore, there is a lot you can do against this by yourself. Of course you probably cannot change your ISP in most regions as they often have local monopolies, but what you can do is to build your own networks. There's software around like OLSRd which you can install onto computers or routers. It implements a meshed routing protocoll. Essentially you turn your wireless network cards into ad-hoc mode. Assign IP-Addresses and start OLDRd. This programm (availiable for preety much all OSes, even Windows) negotiates routes with all the other nodes it can reach. This way you can easily build up large networks which configure themselves automatically. If a node fails, and there is still another way, the network will find it.

    This way you can build an additional network, free of any greedy big ISPs. You can use it wherever you want for whatever you want.

    http://www.olsr.org/ [olsr.org]

  • by cervo (626632) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:03AM (#25624363) Journal
    I particularly like "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)." If they were really doing caps to keep the internet faster for everyone because they cannot handle the traffic they would cap everyone at 150 GB. But no, they are shrinking the cap based on your connection. They want more people to hit to hit the cap so they can charge a premium. Otherwise people might just buy the less expensive connections so that they never hit their cap. I mean if they are capping me at 150 then I don't need 6 Mbps per month, I'm more likely to hit the cap, I would buy a slower link. But to stop me from doing that they are nice enough to lower the cap on slower connections to make sure I hit it. This is hardly fair.
  • wow. just wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by had3z (1064548) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @08:28AM (#25624469) Homepage
    it's funny as hell to see so many people talking seriously about how many gigs / months you can download, or about municipal fiber. i live in romania, and i bet 99% of you don't know where that is. the lowest plan comes with unlimited internet, 100 mbps metropolitan download, tv, and a phone with unlimited calls in the same network, all for about 15 euros. competition is a beautiful thing, isn't it? the only competition americans get is how companies get to screw you harder.

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