AT&T DSL, U-Verse Bandwidth Cap Detrimental to Online Video?

AT&T DSL, U Verse Bandwidth Cap Detrimental to Online Video?

AT&T has announced that they will begin capping the bandwidth on DSL and U-Verse accounts starting in May. The limits will be 150GB (landline DSL) and 250GB (U-Verse), per month. Considering they claim download speeds of up to 24Mbps that's a reduction in bandwidth of some 97% for U-Verse if you consider unmetered, always-on 24Mbps versus 250GB a month. Do you think they will reduce their price by that much? At $65 a month for the Max Turbo plan, that is 26 cents per gigabyte downloaded with the 250GB limit. So if their users use less, will they pay less?Then again, there's no reason to pay for the Max Turbo plan anymore because, you will still be limited to 250GB. The AT&T statement says that on the third month you go over the limit you will begin paying $10 for every extra 50GB (or fraction thereof I'm guessing). So it could happen, I imagine, that you will hit 251GB and have to pay an extra $10. That would then be $75 for 251GB or 30 cents a GB. It appears to me that they will need to flat rate their plans. If  they are charging $10 per 50GB then that means that paying anything more than $50 for 250GB is wrong. Paying for a faster connection would seem silly as well because once you hit that 250GB you will then start paying extra. If you have the 24Mbps it is feasible that you could hit that limit much faster. But as you'll see below, you really don't need much over 15Mbps.

Now we have all seen the report that Netflix users account for 20% of bandwidth consumption during peak times. Some wahoos (that's me being nice) claim this will 'destroy the Internet,' I might suggest they stop watching and believing what places like FOX News say are both newsworthy and the right way to report.

If an ISP, like say AT&T, were unable to provide the necessary bandwidth for everyone to use their Internet connection at the same time, perhaps they have oversold and should update their network. If everyone on a particular branch of the network were to stream a film at the same time and the network couldn't handle it, don't you think that means that AT&T has a problem and not the suers? They have simply sold something that they do not have. That would then technically put them in breach of contract and open them up to some sort of class action lawsuit one might argue.

They can claim all they want that video streaming is killing their business, but if that is the case then they shouldn't have sold all those 24Mbps lines since they don't have the pipe to push it, right?

Now, thanks to that anti-consumer net neutrality policy that was passed recently, AT&T has realized they can now just meter everyone, charge more and make more money…by reducing the service they are actually giving you.

According to my computer, I have, in just 3 days, pulled down some 19GB of traffic. I have been streaming a good amount of video lately via Livestation to keep up with the news and some light gaming. If I were to do more heavy online gaming I would definitely bump up against that limit. 19GB for 3 days turns into 190GB in 30 days. And if they are saying 250GB per month, is that a calendar month? Maybe it should be over a billing period going from billing date to billing date.

Netflix has already expressed concern over what they see as punitive bandwidth fees in Canada, so I expect they will have something to say about the AT&T move as well.

I have to agree with Netflix. Those of us who are using the bandwidth given to us based on the speed of our connection will be charged additional fees, effectively being penalized for getting what we paid for, while prices are unlikely to be reduced, so those who then do not use their full bandwidth gap which is the majority of users says AT&T. This definitely sounds like an anti-consumer move to me.

250GB in 30 days is equal to:

  • 8.3GB a day.
  • 16,300 minutes (11.3 days) of 2Mbps streaming video
  • 11,100 minutes (7.7 days) of 3Mbps streaming video
  • Double that for about 3.85 days or 92.5 hours of 6Mbps
  • Double that for for about 1.92 days or 46.25 hours of 12Mbps

Some numbers from Netflix include a download speed of at least 1.5Mbps, 3Mbps for DVD quality and 5Mbps for HD quality for the duration of a film and some say 8+ Mbps for 1080p. But others have some other ideas of what's needed.

From a TiVo Usenet discussion:

  • Good quality real-time encoded 480i MPEG-2 requires at least 4Mbps, and more like 6Mbps.
  • Good quality 720p HD takes at least 12Mbps, and 15Mbps is a more reasonable minimum.
  • Good quality 1080i takes at least 15Mbps, and even 28Mbps isn't enough to eliminate all artifacts (based on D-Theater tape bitrates and quality).

So then taking those numbers:

  • 6Mbps = 768KBps or 45MB per minute. A 120 minute film = 5.4GB = 46 films a month
  • 12Mbps = 1.536MBps or 90MB per minute. A 120 minute film = 10.8GB = 23 films a month

Sure, most people aren't watching a film or more per day, every day of the month. But that's just video consumption and doesn't include other things like web surfing, email, gaming, streaming audio or more.

What can the Online Video Industry Do?

These limits could certainly scare some broadband subscribers to begin curbing their video intake which is probably what AT&T is hoping, so that overall they have less bandwidth throughput on the network but are still getting the same price.

Here are some suggestions on how we can help make sure subscribers don't shy away from online video:

  • Inform: Put bandwidth requirements on content so that consumers know how much a video will eat into their bandwidth.
  • Educate: Start putting out information about how much streaming video consumes bandwidth. Give them hard numbers so that they are better educated about how much they can consume in hours and minutes per month. Start giving them lists of other ISPs that they might switch to so they could save some money and get all the online video they want. Feel free to take some of my numbers above to do this or point them here (the latter being better for ReelSEO).
  • Activate: Give your subscribers contact information to political action groups, consumer rights groups and the like so that they can become active in fighting against this new trend, get the government to begin repealing that lame-duck net neutrality policy and when necessary, take legal action against their ISPs.
  • Boycott: The best way to fight a company that is working against consumers, which are our demographic no matter how you cut it really, is to boycott the company, taking money out of their pocket. If enough people move away from them, which this new policy might do on its own, they might see the error of their ways.

I talk a lot about boycotting places that I don't agree with. It's not all talk. I do actually boycott products and services from companies that disagree with me on a variety of things. Sometimes, they even boycott me. That generally affects me about as much as my boycott affects them, which is not all that much.

But when you get a large enough group of people together to do it and the company is duly informed as to why (a good boycott requires notifying the company as to why they are being boycotted) it has a much larger impact.

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Posted in Internet TV
About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S7TE2PIHX427YSZQUAVMVCV2TQ NeghVar

    Once again, corporate greed is sending our country backwards. Many other technically advanced contries are constantly getting more bandwidth and faster speeds to their citizens. While our contry is moving backwards.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1155924406 Flaviu Leordeanu

    Good article. About some of the data explained above — here is how I had to phrase it in order to clarify it in my head: instead of "3.85 days of 6Mbps" I think it would be more correct to say "On a 6Mbps connection it will take 3.85 days to download 250GB". Or, instead of: "1.92 days of 12Mbps", I'd rather say: "With a 12 Mbps connection it will take 1.92days to download 250GB".

    Because if I download videos at a certain quality (instead of having Netflix automatically reduce the quality/size based on my bandwidth), say download from YouTube HD, then I can look at this situation from a different angle: Through a 3Mb/sec connection for example, 250GB can be downloaded (or streamed non-stop in its original quality) in ~190 hours (1GB = 1,024*8Mb so 250GB = 2,048,000Mb). While through an 18Mb/sec connection, that 250GB could be downloaded (streamed non-stop) in only ~30 hours. Of course that can be spread over 30 days, but it also means that it could take only 30 hrs instead of 190hrs to download those 250GB. It doesn't mean that I can only watch 30 hrs and then be done for the month, because I could watch a whole lot more if the video is lower quality, while also downloading it a lot faster over the 18Mbps pipe. (250GB = 25HD movies = 50HQ movies = 100SD movies = 200LQ movies = 25000 good qual songs = 12000 high qual songs, etc, this is approximate, but you get the idea).

    Now here is the problem, brought on by "human nature": The time you have to wait to download those 250GB will determine if you have the will&time during that month to download more. With a 3Mb/s connection you will be pretty much out of time and 'tired of waiting' at the end of the 30 days, and you watched a certain number of movies. But with an 18Mb/s connection, it only takes you ~30 hrs to download the same number of movies (that add up to 250GB), and you got plenty of time and energy to go for some more streaming. And that's when ATT steps in and grabs your money for exceeding their quota. And that's when we get active and start boycotting. :)

    • http://www.gamersdailynews.com Christophor Rick

      That's not quite right. What I was saying was at 6Mpbs encoding bitrate streaming to your computer you could watch the equivalent of 92.5 hours of video. It's not really about straight downloading here at ReelSEO. So at 12Mbps (720p HD) you can watch 46.25 hours in a month before hitting the cap.

      See I was talking purely about streaming videos and you're talking about downloading them. You don't download from Netflix, they stream to you, same with YouTube. So this is all about how much video you can watch at what quality before you hit the limit. If you watch 1.5 hours a day of 720p HD for 30 days you'd hit the limit. Since most of us aren't streaming that much it's unlikely. Now when I put in my other usage like streaming radio and gaming, then I start to hit that limit well before my 30 days is up.

      All your talk of downloading movies, sounds like piracy :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1155924406 Flaviu Leordeanu

        Regarding your comment: "You don't download from Netflix, they stream to you, same with YouTube", here is what I have to say about that:

        a) Netflix: good point, Netflix is unique because it can automatically select the quality (the 'compression', or the size in MB) of the movies you watch, based on the connection type (for me, because I currently only have a 3Mbps connection the movies are simply played in lower quality –therefore less GB) without giving me the choice to select a higher quality in advance or to wait while the video buffers up (like YouTube or other sites do). And this is as you said — Streaming. Once I move to a 24Mb/s connection, Netflix will sense the larger pipe and will allow those HD movies to stream at higher/full quality, "helping" me reach the quota even faster.

        b) YouTube: the 'streaming' from YouTube actually is full 'downloading': when you click Play on YouTube, the HD videoclips are fully downloaded to the temporary internet files folder (and the red transparent bar shows the actual downloading progress; when the red bar gets to the end, you can see the .flv or .mp4 file in the temp folder; and sorting by size puts the large file at the very top). That is not streaming, it is rather "buffering" or downloading. Anyway, semantics are not that important here. The quality of those files played off YouTube is according to the initial selection before clicking Play (if for example you click "HD", or just add &hd=1 at the end of the url, and the file stored in the temp folder will be a 720p mp4 if the owner originally uploaded it as a 720p file). And here is where I start having an issue with the 250GB cap imposed by the ATT: when I entertain I want my stereo/laptop/HDTV system to be able to stream my HD quality music-video playlists from YouTube without worrying about reaching a cap. And I want to have different stuff playing in diferent rooms.

        So here is how YouTube differs from Netflix: in "streaming" (I called it 'downloading', but it doesn't matter). Currently I'm watching all the 720p & 1080p music videos from YouTube through a 3Mbps connection, while Netflix would automatically reduce the quality& the size of the file streamed; the downside on youtube is of course that I have to pause each HD video for a few minutes to let it buffer-up, or else there is "hiccupping" every few seconds. Which is the only reason I'm upgrading to 24Mbps — tired of the waiting.

        And, as you also mentioned, add a couple of those other online tasks: YouTube documentaries watched in 1080p for example, while the kids do their thing online (music, video, games, you name it) and while I back up online (upload) thousands of raw files from photo-shoots, or while the wife uploads family videos in HD to Vimeo, and before you know it the cap will need to be extended to 1TB! Anyway … I'm basically saying the same thing and agreeing w/ you: the 250GB cap really sucks. …

        Take care.
        Flaviu

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1155924406 Flaviu Leordeanu

        Thanks for the quick reply Cristophor. I can understand that in your article you discuss how much video one can watch at what quality before hitting the cap. I added a different view to your story and what I was saying certainly is correct (although from a another perspective) and it does not contradict your story. I can also see why the term "downloading" would make one think of piracy –however, it would only be piracy if the streamed file is intentionally saved to be shared or viewed again later. I wasn't talking about that, and I am totally against piracy and I pay for what I consume. I was referring to the same streamed files that you mentioned. In some instances it is streaming, in others it is downloading, and all count up to the 250GB cap, of course.

        • http://www.gamersdailynews.com Christophor Rick

          YouTube is progressive downloading, I'm not arguing that point. However, I'm not getting the majority of my film and TV content from there because they don't have it. I'm getting it from streaming sources.

          Since many streams, like Netflix, are for a set amount of time, if you are capturing and saving the files for use outside of that time, it's piracy.

          Really I was commenting on your statement of downloading films and how it sounded like piracy. It was mostly a joke ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kode54 Chris Moeller

    And what about upstream? Does that count into the same quota, or a separate quota? I checked my router statistics tracking graphs, and it shows that in the last month from this moment, I have downloaded 191.3GB, and uploaded 224.9GB. Rounding up, that's a $40 penalty. Gee, and I was thinking it would be worth paying $5 extra per month to upgrade from the 6/1 package to the 12/1.5 package. That may not increase my downstream total much, since I'm already far from utilizing the 6Mbps constantly, but the graphs show that I'm utilizing 2/3 of my current upstream cap 24/7.

    • http://www.gamersdailynews.com Christophor Rick

      Upstreaming, since it generally has a much lower speed, isn't counted against your quota. Most ISPs don't put a quote on uploading thinking that many people don't do so much. Those of us who create or publish online video know the truth, but SHHHH don't tell THEM! ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronda.lovell Ronda Lovell

    Any idea how much games like World of Warcraft consume? Both my daughter and I are on it pretty much all the time. While we play we stream from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Pandora, etc. so I am extremely worried. My alternative is Time Warner which is who we left for Uverse so I am very depressed with AT&T's decision that they need more money :(.

  • eddie

    I recently got Onlive and got a bit worried after playing Red Faction and Duke Nukemfor a few weeks and found I was at 225 gbs with another 12 days in my billing cycle. Add in my Netflix and other downloading and I'm pretty much screwed. I used to like uverse, not so sure now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1053553291 Zephroth Derusus Talinguard

    Think it needs to be pointed out that there is a difference between a GB and a Gb as well as MB and a Mb. The two are not the same and are not interchangeable. Internet connection speeds are measured in Megabits(Mb) per second rather than the megabytes(MB) per second. 1 megabit = 0.000122070312 gigabyte. so per minute at a 6/Mbs you are able to consume 0.0439453125GB of information so in one hour you can consume 2.63671875GB at full capacity so inferring this you can consume your entire bandwidth 48 hours of downloading at this speed(wel for us 150GB restricted users). Something that needs to be stated as well is that most services never run at this full capacity of Mb/s and typically run at a maximum of 200-600Kb/s which is even smaller.

    I am by no means defending ATT I feel that the propagation of this bandwidth cap is in fact an illegal move bye ATT. Knowing what I know in IT there is no possibility of bandwidth issues in the fiber optics. In fact users only use a small portion of the fiber in the ground as compared to events like the Superbowl that only light up half the fiber in the ground. This is a money grubbing move and should be looked as such.

  • Anthony

    These caps kinda make the Internet useless. You can browse websites but all the multimedia/entertainment stuff becomes off limits. I've been afraid to play any online video games or watch any videos.

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