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AT&T's Metered Billing Off By Up To 4,700% 250

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-that-tmobile-customers dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Metered billing for home Internet service may be the way of the future. But shouldn't we have the right to expect that the meters will at least be accurate? As AT&T moves its DSL and fiber customers to plans where they'll have to pay for overages, some users have noticed that the company's assessment of how much data is being used can be wildly inaccurate."
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AT&T's Metered Billing Off By Up To 4,700%

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  • It ends up being a power grab, much like the old days were. That, and it has a not-so-nice way of killing innovation.

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:00PM (#35622570)

      It ends up being a power grab, much like the old days were. That, and it has a not-so-nice way of killing innovation.

      The issue is largely one of accountability. For example, I have electric and natural gas service at my house. There are meters out back: they're built to government standards, are quite reliable and generally track my usage very well. Occasionally, I get a bill in the mail that has some outrageous numbers on it (I once got an electric bill for some three thousand dollars one month.) Usually that's because the meter reader mistyped something into his computer, or because of some issue with their billing system. Regardless, I still have the meter itself to fall back on, and I can call up the utility and either request a new reading or just give it to them over the phone and have the bill corrected. When I got that big bill, I was asked to go take a manual reading, and to just "tear up that bill, will send you a new one. Sorry for the inconvenience." No problem.

      That's not what's going to happen here: AT&T is expecting people to just accept whatever usage they decide to bill for, with no recourse whatsoever if it turns out that they're wrong. And this will happen, with monotonous regularity, and most people will just pay because they have no idea what a gigabyte is, and how it relates to what they actually do with their computer online, and because Internet access is becoming less and less of a disposable luxury for millions of people.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>meter reader mistyped

        Really? Our meters were upgraded to eliminate human readers, by sending the data over the phone line (or possibly the electric line - not sure which).

        >>>most people will just pay because they have no idea what a gigabyte is

        I hope they're smarter than that. If I received a $200 bill from my ISP, even if I didn't know what a gigabyte was, I'd demand an explanation from their customer service associates.

        • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:39PM (#35622868)

          >>>meter reader mistyped

          Really? Our meters were upgraded to eliminate human readers, by sending the data over the phone line (or possibly the electric line - not sure which).

          >>>most people will just pay because they have no idea what a gigabyte is

          I hope they're smarter than that. If I received a $200 bill from my ISP, even if I didn't know what a gigabyte was, I'd demand an explanation from their customer service associates.

          This was a few years ago, I know they were still doing manual reads. Now I know my gas meter was upgraded: they still have a meter reader come by but there's a small black box on the front of the house. I think he just walks by and grabs a reading with a handheld of some kind, or maybe it goes over the power line or something, like you said. I don't know if my electric meter was upgraded or not: I haven't any problems since then.

          That's not the point though: I was able to instantly correct the mistake because I had an accurate reference for my actual usage. I didn't have to depend upon some remote computer system to provide me with a tally of how many kilowatt-hours I'd used, a machine that is not under my control, and can't be argued with.

          And we're not talking about people getting giant bills. What we are talking about is the potential for deliberate, systematic overbilling: small amounts that the subscriber might not even notice but that add up to billions over time. Matter of fact, that's guaranteed to happen. Didn't Verizon get busted for it recently? It's just too tempting: they just shouldn't be allowed to do it unless there are regulatory safeguards in place.

          With a fixed bill every month, you immediately notice a rate increase (or an increase in Local, State and Federal fees, although some ISPs have put fake charges there too, so people will think that it's the "guv'mint" that raised their bill.) With metered billing, how will you know if you're being ripped off if there's an extra buck on your bill each month? Far too much potential for fraud here.

        • by DarkVader (121278)

          The remote readable electric meters are not everywhere, my meter has analog dials that require reading by a human. I don't believe my utility has any plans to change that anytime soon.

          You mostly see them in places where electricity rates vary by time of day, which doesn't happen here.

        • by dasdrewid (653176)

          Really? Our meters were upgraded to eliminate human readers, by sending the data over the phone line (or possibly the electric line - not sure which).

          Not everyone has had their meters updated yet. I'd be willing to bet that most people's haven't. My parents just had their meter upgraded to a "smart meter" about 2 months ago, and to get that they had to sign up on a special early adopter list and then pay a few hundred dollars for the meter itself. And I'm not actually sure it transmits the data over the phone line, I think it only records time based usage, as opposed to just total usage, that the meter-reader then downloads with a PDA-like device.

          I live

        • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:22PM (#35623520) Journal

          Except they won't be sticking you for $200 old CPU dude, they'll be sticking you for $2 and you will pay which just gives them an incentive to stick you for $3 next month. think about how many customers AT&T has, now figure up what they'll make if they overcharge 40% by $2 and 60% by $3. Wow what nice profits!

          Trust me, I'm stuck on Cox (nice name since they're dicks) that does the metered crap (35Gb a month? WTF?) and they go out of their way to keep you from finding out what you've used. No meters, no gauges, just their word for it. Oh you can complain and they're quick to drop it, but how many don't?

          Metering on a service with no government regulation when it comes to meters is a BAD IDEA in capital letters. imagine if you just had to take each gas stations word for it that they gave you a gallon? How many do you think would be shortchanging you? It doesn't take much with a huge client base to clean up my friends, not much at all.

          • by GeorgeS (11440)

            Build your own "meter" ... Setup a cheap little spare box with 2 nic cards in bridged mode.They will not require a Real IP address so anyone can set this up!! Then just install bandwidthd and Apache2. It may not be perfect but, at least YOU will know about what your usage is and have something to show to back you up.

            I've had this setup for years now and Thankfully I've never needed it...sure nice to know what my systems are doing bandwidth wise though!!

            Doubt anyone here would need it it but, if someone doe

            • by vk2 (753291)
              Why a box? Just get a DD-WRT or something similar (that gives bandwidth usage) capable router for ~20$ and you are good to go.
            • by cowboy76Spain (815442) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @04:47PM (#35624490)

              Build your own "meter" ... Setup a cheap little spare box with 2 nic cards in bridged mode.They will not require a Real IP address so anyone can set this up!! Then just install bandwidthd and Apache2. It may not be perfect but, at least YOU will know about what your usage is and have something to show to back you up.

              I've had this setup for years now and Thankfully I've never needed it...sure nice to know what my systems are doing bandwidth wise though!!

              Doubt anyone here would need it it but, if someone does need some help with this setup feel free to email me.

              And it still won't mean a thing:

              • "My router says I did not consume 2TB of data last month" -"I do not care what your router says because the only 'valid' meter is ours, and nobody will take your claim as proof of anything".
              • even if they accept your claims, most people won't be able to configure such setup for home.
      • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:53PM (#35622968)

        The issue is largely one of accountability. For example, I have electric and natural gas service at my house. There are meters out back: they're built to government standards, are quite reliable and generally track my usage very well.

        The difference is that when you use more natural gas, the gas company has to buy more natural gas. When you use more electricity, the power company has to put more coal in their furnaces. When you use more bandwidth, unless the network was already at 100% capacity, it costs the ISP nothing and the capacity you would consume would otherwise go to waste. If the network is at 100% capacity then it needs to be expanded whether there is metered billing or not. That is, unless you set the metered rate so high that it will materially suppress usage -- also known as "destroying innovation" -- in which case everyone will get less service for more money since you're now paying extra usage fees but the ISP no longer needs to expand capacity because metered billing is suppressing usage, so all the extra money goes to profit.

        Metered billing is the model of perpetual stagnation. It gives the ISP an incentive to never upgrade because the more scarcity there is, the more they can charge for it. Why on Earth would they make a capital investment to alleviate a supply shortfall, the result of which would be lower prices to customers? They certainly have no real competition to make them do it.

        • The difference is that when you use more natural gas, the gas company has to buy more natural gas.

          Well, that's true, but that just means that the company has a vested interest in accurate billing so they don't lose money. As you point out, ISPs have a vested interest in exactly the opposite, so I agree with you about metered billing.

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          I'm usually against increased regulation, but looks to be true that there's no free market way to deal with what appears to be another natural monopoly in place. Personally, I think this should become a public works project now, like power and the sewers. Yes, we'll probably have companies operating the infrastructure, but it needs to be regulated to provide access for everyone and the ability to upgrade it not based on a pricing model, but based on increased demand. It's very true that the backbone prov

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          Stop bringing truth and common sense into this. You are going to hurt the telcos and cable companies that are barely making a dollar. Hell they were only able to give their CEO's a 7 digit bonus this year...

          Honestly the only answer is to have the govt declare that internet access is a utility and all ISP's have to follow strict utility rules. They certainly will not do it on their own.

          require actual and accurate meters for each customer that must be able to be read from any web browser and as a XML rss f

        • Sounds good, would it be OK to post your schematics and details on construction? I think double checking everything is necessary today.

          Thanks,
          Jim

        • by Solandri (704621)

          Metered billing is the model of perpetual stagnation. It gives the ISP an incentive to never upgrade because the more scarcity there is, the more they can charge for it. Why on Earth would they make a capital investment to alleviate a supply shortfall, the result of which would be lower prices to customers? They certainly have no real competition to make them do it.

          Your last sentence is key. What you're saying is true only if there's inadequate competition. If there's competition, then metered billing is

          • We already know a flat fee for unlimited bandwidth is unworkable.

            How is it that we know that? The only problem with it is that the ISPs have taken all the money they should have been using to increase capacity and instead used it to buy each other up and line their own pockets. The solution to that is to either bring about competition (e.g. municipal fiber) or to pass legislation requiring them to make upgrades. Metered billing does nothing -- they would still have no competition and no incentive to expand capacity, and any solution that gets them to expand capacity suff

      • This is exactly why someone needs to standardize, as soon as possible, a consumer device for metering your IP. The device should be small (pocket sized), possibly battery operated, has a liquid crystal display, and simply shows the IO flow of IP packets into and out of your home, with totals. The device should be under $10.00 or $20.00 USD. To use the device, you would simply place it in-line between your ISP modem, and your home router. Every month, you would simply read its value from the LCD just like th

        • by arkenian (1560563)

          Home routers, in theory, could possibly perform the function, however there would be wildly varying methods of reading and displaying the data. All older router firmwares would need to be updated, and the metering method used would need standardization.

          So, I run dd-wrt, and MY router certainly has this function, and has for a long time. I can see little graphs of my usage back to when I first installed dd-wrt on it. (It makes it easy to tell when I get on a torrent kick 'cuz my upstream jumps through the roof) I don't remember whether my stock-firmware routers stored history or not, but I know that they all told me the in and out numbers since the connection started. Where it gets hard, though, is with the ISPs marking significant quantities of the in

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Until then there is some 100% free software that may help if your ISP tries to bone you, it is 100% free, doesn't need an install if you don't want to, will show you hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and keep a nice little log of everything. I have it setting on the little SFF I use as a gateway that way if my ISP tries to claim I blew X I can show them the logs. Just the fact that I had logs to show them was enough to get my ISP to back down when they tried to charge me for 45Gb I didn't use.

          Networx [softperfect.com] is the

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday March 26, 2011 @11:50AM (#35622496)
    This is a schlock outfit, no better than Comcast: the AT&T of old is long gone now.

    What I'd like for them to do is tell me what kinds of traffic are being counted on my bill (do port scans count? What about all the other crap that floats around the Internet that happens to have my IP in it?) Do they provide monitoring tools that I can use to verify my usage, and compare against what my router tells me I've used? If not, then they can make up anything they want and bill me for it, and knowing AT&T^h^h^h^h SBC that's exactly what they will do.

    Now we start to understand why the government used to enforce quality of service standards. The fact that these guys got an exception for data services is just too bad.
    • by sethstorm (512897)

      That's also why AT&T wanted to buy up T-Mobile. Why let customers go to the remaining national carrier for GSM that provides superior service?

      Just kill metering for bandwidth due to all the ways it always goes wrong.

    • by Cimexus (1355033) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:29PM (#35622804)

      If it's anything like the metering done ubiquitously in many other countries, then yes, all traffic that hits the WAN side of your router is counted, solicited or not.

      I'm in Australia on a metered plan. Metering is the norm here for the vast majority of plans - there are a couple of unlimited ones out there but most users don't need that much and choose a cheaper plan with an allowance that suits their usage (metered plans range from as little as a few GB/month, to over 1 TB/month, so only exceptionally heavy downloaders would find an unlimited plan better value).

      Anyway, if AT&T is going to meter, they have to do it properly. The (good) ISPs here could probably give them some advice. The ISP I'm with seems to meter very accurately: their figures never vary more than ~0.5% from what my router reports (i.e. maximum of a couple of MB discrepancy every 1 GB, and it's not always in their favour). They provide usage statistics via their website and a number of other tools: downloadable desktop widgets, Android and iOS apps, and of course, email/SMS warnings when you hit 70%, 90% and 100% of your monthly allowance. Additionally, they publish the API for their stats server so anyone can write their own tools to monitor usage if they want. The stats are also fairly timely, generally lagging 30-90 minutes behind the actual usage.

      In my experience, only a very negligible amount of my traffic can be attributed to port scans and the like - I get only a very minor amount of unsolicited traffic, generally = 1MB/day, so it's not a big deal. On the odd occasion that something weird happens (like you get DDoSed or something), the ISP can generally see this in their logs and will waive the usage (never happened to me personally though).

      What's happening at AT&T sounds very much like what happened here 10-15 years ago when (metered) broadband started becoming common. Many ISPs had significant bugs in their metering systems. Accuracy of the stats was one problem, timeliness was another: some ISPs used to have huge lag times between the actual usage, and the reporting of that usage. Sometimes you'd get only tiny bits of recorded usage for a few days then all of a sudden, it would 'catch up' and you'd get a massive chunk land on one day. That's been ironed out now (at least for the reputable ISPs). At least part of the reason for this is Australia has very strong consumer protection laws, and various independent bodies you can complain to about this kind of issue that have the power to inflict penalties on the ISP for this kind of behaviour.

    • by Osgeld (1900440) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:30PM (#35622808)

      what AT&T of old being gone? sorry but I disagree back in 1996 we had worldnet dialup and they pulled this exact same shit. One day I came home to a mad dad who thought I had downloaded the internet cause he got a 300 dialup bill for going over his limit

      but dad you signed up for unlimited Internet, have you changed plans? well of course not they just up and decided to start capping bandwidth and showed us what we had used in a month with their metering technology (excel bar graph) which got them another prompt call of "how the fuck do you download 1.8gig on a 28.8 modem with a 4 hour disconnect in under a month genius?"

      To me it just sounds just like the good ole days

      • what AT&T of old being gone? sorry but I disagree back in 1996

        I said "old". As in, pre-breakup days. 1996 is way after that.

        • by Osgeld (1900440)

          oh the days when they forced you to buy their overpriced equipment or else expect huge overcharges

          my bad

        • by Pharmboy (216950)

          Back when they made you lease their equipment, and charged you by the number of phones you had in the house, and when long distance rates were about the same per minute as the minimum wage?

          Or maybe the near past, when they couldn't keep a pair of T1s running with even 2 9s of service? AND would switch your long distance plan to someone else, even though you are on a contract?

          AT&T has always been a bunch of asshats. They are just fully capable of changing with the times in their asshattery.

  • I can see a 50-state lawsuit coming out of this. Wonder how ATT feels about taking on 50 government all at the same time.

    Bastards.
    - It reminds me how they tried to charge me extra for my 80s-era 1200 baud modem (i.e. ~1 kbit/s). I was paying for "unlimited phone calls" rather than per-call billing, but they said my 16-hour per day usage was excessive and tried to charge me an extra "data fee". I threw the letter in the trash.

    Later-on we got phone company choice, and I switched away from ATT.

    • by Maestro4k (707634)

      I can see a 50-state lawsuit coming out of this. Wonder how ATT feels about taking on 50 government all at the same time.

      Highly unlikely, all the telcos (and cablecos) spend a ton of money on lobbying and campaign donations. Pretty much none of our elected officials are willing to mess with them, no matter what party. (The democrats do a bit better, but they're still unwilling to really make the telcos/cablecos accountable.) It would take massive, massive and widespread public outrage to get the state AGs to even consider going after AT&T. So perhaps our best hope is that they do get too greedy and try to rip us off e

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @11:55AM (#35622538)

    complain to the state attorney general and make them sue.

    Gas and power meters are certified and are at your home and not in some office.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      but the meter for your time spend making long distance phone calls from you land line isn't. Neither is the meter tracking how much time you spend on a cell phone call.

      So clearly certified meters at your home are not a universal method.

      • but the meter for your time spend making long distance phone calls from you land line isn't. Neither is the meter tracking how much time you spend on a cell phone call.

        So clearly certified meters at your home are not a universal method.

        No, but Federally-mandated quality-of-service standards with stiff penalties for failure are. The problem with metered billing is that a. there's no way for the majority of users to know if they're being overbilled (and no, some Web page saying "you've used x percent of your monthly allowance" doesn't count) and b. the fact that these companies simply cannot be trusted. Especially the likes of Comcast or SBC/AT&T. These guys lie before breakfast, just for the practice.

      • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:18PM (#35622718)

        but the meter for your time spend making long distance phone calls from you land line isn't. Neither is the meter tracking how much time you spend on a cell phone call.

        But they can back up the readings of "long distance phone calls" by producing CDRs of the inter-LATA/Toll calls/Paid feature activations; every individual call made always has to be recorded date, time, duration, calling party, called party, originators billing DN, IDT, CRV, terminators billing DN, ODT, CRV, identification of providers' physical circuits used for the call, Caller ID status, ETC., which can be matched with records kept by the call's terminating provider -- if they lied, they could eventually be caught.

        Not that billing errors are impossible.. it's just that as long as your phone line doesn't get crossed with someone else's, there are definitive records to fallback to, which could be reviewed by the carrier to fix it, or subpoena'd by the court.

        It's not like electricity where "the number reading" is the only thing that can establish your usage. And it's accurate, unless you can prove something is wrong with its readings.

  • by nikomen (774068) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @11:57AM (#35622548)
    The more and more these internet providers try to screw their customers, whether purposefully or inadvertently, the more we move to making broadband a public utility. If companies can't act responsibly, the only other option, in this semi-monopoly, is to get the feds involved.
    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:08PM (#35622634)

      >>>this semi-monopoly, is to get the feds involved.

      Why the feds? Usually it's the Member State government that regulates natural monopolies aka utilities (like electricity, water, natural gas, sewer, etc).

      • Because the major laws to bust existing monopolies, such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (and RICO if fraudulent practices are being performed), are Federal.

      • this semi-monopoly, is to get the feds involved.

        Why the feds? Usually it's the Member State government that regulates natural monopolies aka utilities (like electricity, water, natural gas, sewer, etc).

        First, a natural monopoly is one where a single party naturally has control of a resource, like owning the only water source in an area. What you're describing is a government mandated monopoly where, for the sake of reliability and easier regulation the government passes laws creating an artificial monopoly. There's no physical reason we can't have multiple sewer systems and natural gas, water, electricity, etc. distribution networks. It's not really a good idea, but it is the law that prevents it from hap

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @11:59AM (#35622568) Homepage

    If the correct charge is $0.01, and I'm instead charged $4.80, that's a 4700% difference but a significantly different matter than, say, getting charged $480 rather than $1. When it comes to people being overcharged, I'd much rather have the absolute figures as our measurement of how much SBC is being a corporate jackass.

    • by luckymutt (996573) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:34PM (#35622846)
      No, percentages are not misleading. There may be a significantly different *dollar amount* in your example, and you might be able to absorb a $4.79 loss (if you even notice it,) but but you're still being ripped off by 4700%.
      Having it as absolute figures might get a handful of individuals to get their bill corrected, but $4.79 multiplied by how many tens of thousands of customers every month adds up to how much in ill-gotten and possibly systematic gains?
      If were all ripped off a little at a time, it's not as big of a deal?
  • by tkrotchko (124118) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:00PM (#35622572) Homepage

    Metered internet is not the future.

    As described, it doesn't even make any sense either the reasons why or the implementation.

    • by Auroch (1403671)

      Metered internet is not the future.

      As described, it doesn't even make any sense either the reasons why or the implementation.

      Yes, you're correct. Metered internet is the present for everywhere but the USA. And no one is really sure when USA broadband is going to catch up to the rest of the world [scientificamerican.com] ...

  • by sam1am (753369) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:03PM (#35622596)
    I subscribe to U-Verse and so I went to see how far off they were with my usage.

    The U-verse data measurement report is currently under construction. When completed, you will be notified if your usage exceeds the allowance. Until that time, U-verse customers should not be concerned about their usage patterns for billing purposes.

    Wouldn't it be nice to get enough notice to evaluate if AT&T's product meets my needs? Alas, my router tells me I've used 230 GB over the last month; that's pretty close to their 250GB limit, and if the numbers are 'fuzzy' then all bets are off.

    Because U-Verse TV service is IP-delivered, I'd like assurances that they're not including this traffic in any metering - I'm already paying for this content and its delivery on the 'TV' portion of my bill.

    • by adolf (21054)

      I tried to get my usage information for my (internet-only) 12/1.5 U-verse account, and instead saw the following:

      Note: Your internet plan provides you with unlimited usage. There are no usage details to display.

      *shrug*

  • It should have its incorporation revoked and all top executives and board members barred from ever being in the telecom business again.

    These are the same players from the time when the first break up occurred. They did not learn their lesson about abusing their position, building monopoly and being bad for the consumer. They had their chance to straighten up and fly right. They can't be trusted to behave.

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:23PM (#35622748)

      It should have its incorporation revoked and all top executives and board members barred from ever being in the telecom business again.

      These are the same players from the time when the first break up occurred. They did not learn their lesson about abusing their position, building monopoly and being bad for the consumer. They had their chance to straighten up and fly right. They can't be trusted to behave.

      No they're not. SBC bought the old AT&T, and kept the name AT&T. What you have are the people who operated the worst of the original thirteen Baby Bells now running the show. Which is, I agree, not an improvement. Also, whatever you want to say about the old AT&T, remember that they operated under some very strict regulation, and did provide us, for a very long time, with about the best phone service in the world. Much of the problem we have now is that none of the big ISPs operate under any real regulation anymore, no real service standards apply: they can do pretty much whatever they want with little if any penalty.

      But yeah, I think that most of the big players ought to be up on anti-trust charges at some point. What they're doing is not in the consumers' interest at any level.

      • What a bunch of bullshit. When AT&T ruled the earth, you couldn't connect anything but a Company Approved Phone [tm] to their lines, otherwise something might explode. Oh, and you can't buy a phone from the store, you have to rent one from the company store. You can have any color you like, as long as it's black.
        • by russotto (537200)

          What a bunch of bullshit. When AT&T ruled the earth, you couldn't connect anything but a Company Approved Phone [tm] to their lines, otherwise something might explode. Oh, and you can't buy a phone from the store, you have to rent one from the company store. You can have any color you like, as long as it's black.

          Actually, there were quite a few colors. [frillfreephones.com]

        • What a bunch of bullshit. When AT&T ruled the earth, you couldn't connect anything but a Company Approved Phone [tm] to their lines, otherwise something might explode. Oh, and you can't buy a phone from the store, you have to rent one from the company store. You can have any color you like, as long as it's black.

          I wasn't talking about subscriber level equipment. The service worked, it worked well, and that was what was required of AT&T. How often did your phone service simply not work? Sure, AT&T owned the phones ... but they were built like brick outhouses. Their technicians were generally far more competent and well-trained, the network itself better maintained. "Better" is a relative term. All I know is that nowadays (and I have AT&T U-Verse for my phone service) is that I'm subject to more outages,

  • by pablo_max (626328) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:17PM (#35622708)

    It is not illegal to offer a metering service without the customer has access to said meter? It was my understanding that such services, like the water company, electric and gas MUST have a meter available for their customer to read as well, not because they are super nice guys, but because US law mandates it.
    How is metered internet service different?
    If they insist on saying, well the utilities do it this way and that way, and when they insist on acting like utility, should they not also be bound by the same rules?

    • by PPH (736903)

      It's an interesting thought. Once on starts metering (or otherwise measuring) a product, one exposes ones self to the jurisdiction of additional regulatory authorities. Usually at the state level, although sometimes local (county and/or city) inspectors get involved as well.

      This is a situation that telcos, ISPs, and cable companies have been trying to avoid. Having to comply with numerous different sets of regulations. Well, welcome to the world of utilities.

      One other side effect of this move is that AT

    • Do you have access to the metering service of your phone?

    • Unlike public utilities they would probably just drop the usage fees if you dispute their accuracy (it's not like those bytes cost them anything), and terminate your account. If it is legal for ISPs to deliver somewhat indeterminate data rates, charging somewhat indeterminate billing rates might as well be too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:19PM (#35622728)

    Isn't billing based on inaccurate weights and measures fraud?

    • Someone in another forum suggested that Measurement Canada should get involved to standardize billing for ISPs in Canada. From their website:

      Measurement Canada is responsible for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of measurement in the Canadian marketplace. We:

      develop and administer the laws and requirements governing measurement,
      evaluate, approve and certify measuring devices, and
      investigate complaints of suspected inac

  • Unwanted traffic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:32PM (#35622832)

    Like someone on the comments section of the article said.. what about if someone is ping flooding you, DDoS'ing, or otherwise sending traffic your way... here's a very true story about a similar situation my friend had with Nextel:

    Years ago my friend had Nextel, and I sent him a text bomb (basically I just stuck his cell # into the TO field as many times as I could on a single text message and hit "send". After it sent, I went into the sent messages and just kept hitting "resend".)

    So he received around 100 or so messages. I didn't know his nextel plan didn't include texting, and he'd be charge $0.25 per message. That's about $20 bucks out of his pocket FOR NOTHING.

    He called Nextel and explained.. and got no where. So he bitched.. still got no where. After 2 hours on the phone trying different people and supervisors bitching about "how can you charge me 25 cents a message for messages A> I don't want, and B> I can't stop/block from coming in?!

    Their solution was "well we can block all text messages".. at that point he told them to go f' themselves if they can't run their damn network correctly and understand how you could cause someone you disliked to have a HUGE phone bill, and told them right then and there he was leaving their messed up network. He promptly switched and ported his number.

    But it just goes to show they DON'T take those situations into account, or just don't CARE about those situations.. which either way is a very sad thing indeed.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @12:43PM (#35622888)

    Where I live I have two choices, AT&T and Comcast. It's like trying to pick a side to root for on the Ostfront in WWII. Can we root against them both?

    I've gone through a six month period of terrible service with the AT&T fuckers. Service keeps dropping out, problem isn't on my end. Their fucking Indians don't have any clue what's going on with the service techs over here, nobody updates the account info properly, nobody gives a damn. And while we're at it, why do I have to type in my phone number for them to route it properly if they're just going to ask me what it is when I get there?

    The problem is that there's no fucking free market. There is no competition. There's a duopoly with each choice being craptastic. The next pro-business cheerleader who goes teary-eyed about the marketplace of choice is getting my fist in his gob.

    "The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that."
    -- Larry Kudlow, CNBC host and failed human being

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Around here it's Qwest and Comcast, trust me this isn't that much better than what you have. I swear that Qwest isn't giving us the throughput we're paying for.

    • Where I live I have two choices, AT&T and Comcast. It's like trying to pick a side to root for on the Ostfront in WWII. Can we root against them both?

      It's like the Devil you have, and the Devil you used to have until he got so bad you went with the Devil you have.

      Sucks, I know. I'm in the same boat, but I have managed to play them off against each other on occasion. "Oh, you won't fix my problem? Well, I guess I'll have to head on over to [Comcast | AT&T] again. I'd rather not, but I'd rather have service than not."

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The problem is that there's no fucking free market. There is no competition. There's a duopoly with each choice being craptastic.

      Every telephone company that I sign up with becomes AT&T in the end (with apologies to The Police, and not the ones you cheese it for.) I was just thinking about getting a T-Mobile phone again... sigh. My last phone company was Edge Wireless. Right now I'm using a crapfone because... WTF.

      The next pro-business cheerleader who goes teary-eyed about the marketplace of choice is getting my fist in his gob.

      Please do something more subtle. Slashdot needs you to be free.

  • by bittmann (118697) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @01:04PM (#35623026) Journal

    If I'm paying for PPPoE and ATM overhead, I'm gonna be pissed.

    AT&T must be measuring bits at the DSLAM, if what they're reporting is anywhere close to being accurate. If a 150GB "cap" includes the approx. .5% PPPoE and 10+% ATM overhead, what I'm seeing means that my 150GB cap is in reality closer to 135GB.

    Sucks.

  • Is metered billing ever accurate? It seems like the only reason companies want to do this is to grab more cash than they should actually be getting. The onus is on the customer to check, but many don't know how without referring to the ISP's own utility which would just report the inaccurate data anyway. This makes it seem like a scam.
  • ...that isn't your fault.

    My friend figured that he was getting 2GB of ARP traffic hitting his router every month. If he exceeds his limit, does that get billed for?

  • by cluedweasel (832743) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @01:57PM (#35623342) Homepage
    Our local cable internet provider has a 100Gb monthly cap in place. A few months ago, a friend of mine called in a panic because here usual $52 internet bill had come in at over $600. The first thing I did was check the daily breakdown of her usage on the ISP's website. It showed a fairly consistent 16Gb a day of usage. Bear in mind that this is a woman who lives alone, is totally non-technical and has one PC hooked up to a cable modem. No wireless, no laptop, no consoles, nothing. I was showing here the daily usage when she remembered that at the start of the month, she was visiting a relative out of state. Those days still showed the 16Gb a day. I checked the Windows event logs for those days - nothing at all, which fitted pretty well with her insistence that the PC was switched off. So called up the ISP. After getting nowhere with billing, I asked for the tech support people. Was pretty much told that I was lying and she wasn't going to gt out of paying the bill. Their attitude was that their system was foolproof and that there must have been someone in the house using the Internet that weekend she was away. No one else has a key and the house sits on an acre lot on the outskirts of town. Then the support guy told me that the metering was still showing high usage in real time. I pulled the plug on the cable modem and guess what? No change in the metering. Asked him to explain that and was told again that I must be "mistaken". After getting escalated yet again, I finally got them to cancel the overage charge but they still wouldn't accept that there was a problem on their end. My friend is now on a wireless Internet provider now and the software I installed shows a pretty ocnsistent usage of around 6Gb a month.
  • One guy claims:

    AT&T's data appears to be wholely corrupted. Some days, AT&T will under-report my data usage by as much as 91%. (They said I used 92 meg, my firewall says I used 1.1 Gigs.) Some days, AT&T will over-report my data usage by as much as 4700%. (They said I used 3.8 Gig, dd-wrt says I used 80 meg. And no, this day wasn't anywhere near the day they under-reported.)

    And another speculates:

    Another user in the thread suggests that the discrepancy is because AT&T is measuring usage at the DSLAM, thereby creating unrealistic totals that incorporate PPPoE and ATM overhead

    And we're taking that as gospel? AT&T needs to get off their asses and answer the questions, but so far we've got nothing to go on.

    The speculation brings up a valid point, though. The government could actually be useful here by working out common overhead amounts for various types of services, or a test suite that the service (or a subscriber) could run. Essentially, if I'm using a cable modem, and I download a one gigabyte file, the meter might internally read 1.1

    • And we're taking that as gospel? AT&T needs to get off their asses and answer the questions, but so far we've got nothing to go on.

      They also may very well not be using the same methodology in every service region.

  • Maybe the ISPs are counting a ton of DSL modem firmware updates that the users aren't aware of?

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