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AT&T Introduces Data Caps for Internet Customers

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Why All the Hype over Net Neutrality?

Learn what net neutrality is all about and why it's so important.

Net neutrality advocates were disappointed when the Federal Communications Commission's final rules looked a lot like the proposal set out by Google and Verizon last year. At the time, they predicted data caps and tiered pricing-essentially a tiered Internet-were on their way. They were right.

 

Digital Trends reports AT&T is introducing data caps for its landline DSL and U-verse services. DSL customers will be limited to 150 gigabytes per month. U-verse will be capped at 250 gigabytes a month. For every 50 gigabytes per month a customer exceeds the limit, he or she will be charged $10. In a statement, AT&T explained:

The top 2 percent of residential subscribers uses about 20 percent of the bandwidth on our network. Just one of these high-traffic users can utilize the same amount of data capacity as 19 typical households. Lopsided usage patterns can cause congestion at certain points in the network, which can slow Internet speeds and interfere with other customers' access to and use of the network.

The company went on to note that the great majority of its customers would not even be affected by the changes.

 

Some say the data caps are no better than increasing prices on specialized content because it's that specialized content that tends to require more bandwidth.

 

But as Columbia University law professor Tim Wu pointed out, prices based on data used make perfect sense. He likened Internet access to electricity, water and other utilities. He explained:

[I]f you're cranking Netflix all day and downloading 10 gigs, I've never thought it unreasonable to have to pay more. That's a billing question, not a net neutrality question.

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