TECH
05/02/2011 08:45 am ET | Updated Jul 02, 2011

AT&T To Begin Broadband Caps

Broadband hogs beware: today, AT&T begins capping data use.

The company, America's largest Internet service provider, becomes the second broadband carrier after Comcast to start limiting the amount of broadband its customers use. DSL users will be capped at 150 GB per month, with those going over the limit more than three times in three separate months made to pay $10 for each 50 GB over the limit. U-verse users will be capped at 250 per month. Such metered access has already hit Internet subscribers in Canada.

To get a better sense of what this means, consider that watching one streaming high-definition movie online is the equivalent of approximately 2 GB per hour, with standard def movies using about .3 GB per hour to 1.0 GB an hour. AT&T estimates that only about 2 percent of their high-speed Internet customers will be affected, with the average customer ringing in at about 18 GB per month in use.

The company says the caps will only affect about 2 percent of their DSL customers, asserting that the average customer uses about 18 GB each month. However, the migration of data services to the cloud has some worrying that users will prove to be more restricted in the future than they seem to be at present.

VentureBeat notes that while figures that place activities like watching a video on YouTube for ten minutes at 10 to 50 megabytes make these data caps pretty reasonable, rising cloud technologies that sync files with remote servers in the background could face data usage issues under such a plan.

Some advocates see the move as a potential hindrance to the growth of the Internet and online innovation. Representative Ed Markey criticized AT&T for undermining national broadband goals and making it more difficult for new adopters to access high-speed Internet.