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 -

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