Broadband Reports Says AT&T Will Impose Future Download Caps on DSL and Fiber Users

According to Broadband Reports/DSL Reports, AT&T is shifting its broadband accounts to a capped structure that will impose penalties for users who regularly exceed 150 GB for DSL or 250 GB for their fiber-based U-Verse:

Broadband Reports was the first to learn, and has confirmed with AT&T, that the company will be implementing a new 150GB monthly usage cap for all DSL customers and a new 250 GB cap on all U-Verse users starting on May 2. From March 18 to March 31, AT&T users are going to be receiving notices informing them of the change in the company’s terms of service. AT&T spokesman Seth Bloom confirmed the news to Broadband Reports after we initially contacted him last Friday concerning a leaked copy of the upcoming user notification. According to Bloom, the cap will involve overage charges. However, only users who consistently exceed the new caps will have to deal with these charges [via Exclusive: AT&T To Impose Caps, Overages – Notices To Go Out This Week, Capping Begins May 2 |, ISP Information.]

AT&T and other ISPs have claimed that the unlimited Internet access account creates an environment where a few heavy users spoil the online experience for casual users. Additionally, they claim that the excessive usage of the few costs them too much money, so those users should be made to pay more if they choose to download more.

It would seem that one of the responsibilities of the ISP, as a provider of Internet access to its customers, is to continually innovate and improve its network so that the online experience is not diluted for some at the expense of other users. They provide a service, and the responsibility for making that service attractive to customers is what they, as a business, should do. However, this is not what they do as a corporation.

As a corporation, they are beholden to their shareholders. This means that they are not as concerned about their users, paying for the service that they provide, as they are about their shareholders. As a corporation, their calculus finds the way to maximize their profits (e.g., providing dividends, pumping the stock price, rewarding upper management financially, etc) while minimizing their expenditures. Those expenditures would be the things that they could do to maximize their customers’ experience online (e.g., providing bandwidth, improving infrastructure, making the ISP as transparent as possible to the online experience).

Unfortunately, AT&T and other ISPs, in measures such as this and the impending customer abuse as a result of removing net neutrality from the picture, want to get as many customers as possible who are willing and able to pay for crap service in order to maximize the things that really matter to the corporation’s logic of appeasing its true masters (i.e., not the customers).

Which ISP will be the next with innovative ways to stick it to their customers?

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.