updated 03:05 pm EDT, Fri June 13, 2008
AT&T Mulls Overage Fees
AT&T believes it "inevitable" that its most frequent Internet users will pay some kind of surcharge for the extra demand on the network, says company representative Michael Coe. The official cautions that there are no plans in place but notes that AT&T, like most providers, is facing a surge in traffic on its DSL service that is primarily led by a small group of users and may need to be controlled by charging extra for heavy usage. About 5 percent of customers use 46 percent of overall bandwidth, Coe explains.
While DSL is switch-based and so doesn't suffer from the very localized congestion of cable Internet access, the disproportionate use is said to affect other users. Coe also notes that overall use doubles roughly every 18 months, putting strain on the larger network.
AT&T's stance echoes an increasing shift by US providers towards attempting to curb heavy usage. Comcast is considering the use of a 250GB soft cap that would accommodate most users but charge overage fees for users who cross that point. International providers in Canada and other regions have already implemented similar systems.
Critics of the caps argue that they unfairly curb a switch by many users from cable- or satellite-based services to strictly Internet features, including online movie rentals through offerings from Apple and Roku, TV shows hosted through Hulu and other TV networks' websites, and online multiplayer gaming.