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Summary:

AT&T implemented a broadband cap a little over a year ago, so why is Ma Bell still unable to tell people how much data they’re consuming? For an undetermined number of subscribers AT&T doesn’t yet have a meter, but it will still charge customers overage fees.

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AT&T implemented a broadband cap a little over a year ago, yet AT&T isn’t letting all of its customers track their broadband usage — which would be pretty useful information if you’re trying to stay under the cap. For an undetermined number of subscribers AT&T hasn’t yet provided access to its online data meter, but that hasn’t stopped Ma Bell from implying that customers need to beware of what they download.

AT&T first announced it would implement caps  in March 2011 so its had plenty of time to put the technology in place. A couple GigaOM staffers who subscribe to AT&T’s U-Verse high speed internet service noted that when they tried to access their broadband usage information they instead got a note that read:

Note: Your usage is not yet available for display. You should not be concerned about your usage for billing purposes. AT&T will keep you informed about your data usage via email.

When I asked AT&T why my colleagues couldn’t track their usage a spokesman told me that the meter hasn’t been rolled out to 100 percent and offered me the following statement via email:

All customers will hear from us early and often if they are close to exceeding their data plan. Before a customer’s usage surpasses his or her data plan and an additional charge is applied, we send that customer an alert when they reach 65, 90 and 100 percent of their monthly data plan. And we offer two billing grace periods.

The majority of our customers have access to the tool today and we continue to deploy the needed technology to make the measurement tool even more widely available.

So it sounds like AT&T will send customers letters or emails if they go above the 250 GB cap for high speed users and 150 for DSL users, but they won’t be charged those first two times. However if that customer continues to exceed the cap even without a meter AT&T is going to charge them.

  1. Brett Glass Friday, July 6, 2012

    Stacey Higginbotham obviously has a weekly quota of anti-ISP articles that she must write to satisfy her sponsor Google.

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    1. Joe Diamond Friday, July 6, 2012

      Brett Glass obviously has a weekly quota of anti-GigaOm comments that he must write to satisfy his juvenile mind.

      BTW Stacey writes some of the most insightful tech articles.

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      1. Thanks, Joe.

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  2. So should she make stuff up to make the carriers look good? That’s the only way it could happen.

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    1. Alexander Wood Saturday, July 7, 2012

      It clearly says they warn you at 65, 90, and 100 percent, just like on the wireless side.

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      1. Kevin Fitchard Thursday, July 12, 2012

        On the wireless side AT&T also provides a meter you can check to see how much you have consumed. The point is AT&T implemented a policy that restricts how much you can consume and then doesn’t give you a way to track how much you consume (which it can clearly do itself).

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  3. If someone is that concerned they could get a dd-wrt router which tracks usage. You can find used routers compatible with dd-wrt firmware on Craigslist for 20 bucks. New for 50. Just a thought. Nice article. Capping data and not providing a meter should be illegal. That’s like an electricity bill that connects directly from grid to house

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  4. John Nemesh Friday, July 6, 2012

    And who is the regulating agency that ensures your bandwidth meter is accurate and not overinflating the numbers to benefit AT&T? I get this with my electric meter, and my gas meter…and for gasoline as well. There needs to be government oversight of this, NOW!

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    1. Agreed how can something possibly be metered that isn’t government regulated. Even the scales at checkout counter in the supermarket is state certified!

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    2. Travis Henning Saturday, July 7, 2012

      This. If they are going to meter your usage (which I basically have no beef with if they charge reasonable per GB rates), there had better be some sort of governing body certifying the meters are accurate and who will periodically audit such meters. But if there are suspicious overages, charges or fees, I bet there’s little the consumer can do based on the terms and conditions. No class action or other suits. Arbitration, paid for by the ISP.

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      1. I don’t know about AT&T, but Time Warner has a third-party audit their meters to make sure they are accurate.

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  5. Ohhhhhh this ticks me off to no end.

    When you pump gas, the pump has a certificate telling you when the pump was last certified by the state. At the grocery store, the scales are certified by the state to be accurate.

    Any vendor selling ANY product by a unit needs to be able to allow the customer to measure it. And they must have the ability to allow the state to certify how it is measured. Period.

    The fact that the state department of weights and measures allows telcos to sell services by the minute, byte, or whatever metric they want. And not allow the customer to track their consumption. And not have any way to certify that the telco’s own measurements are any way accurate, should be criminal.

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  6. I have exceeded the limit one time. They didn’t charge, but will the next time. I will not pay it, however. I think it’s a good case that without an effective tool to monitor my data usage, I can not be held accountable. I never know how much data I use on a daily basis. How could I know? Should I add every little thing up that comes across my line in a notebook? Impossible.

    They need to come up with a monitor that gives me real-time updates and a way to verify that the usage is correct. This must be done without privacy violations. That is a big problem.

    The bottom line is, I need to know when I am at 99.99% from a verifiable, trusted, and private source, or I will not pay.

    Also, I almost never check my email. Frankly, it is not something I am willing to do. It takes much too long to scavenge through so much spam and junk mail. Not only that, but wouldn’t it cause me to use more data? Seems like a good little deal for them, especially if I am close to my limit.

    I am sure given some time, there will be a class action suit over this type of charge. Maybe not for the above reasons, but there are problems here, I am sure of it.

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  7. David Hoffman Saturday, July 7, 2012

    I think the writer may be incorrect in how AT&T is handling the situation. IF the meter does not work, then they are not counting your data for overage charges, according to some who get the no meter message and know they are using more than 150GBs per month for AT&T’s regular DSL. It seems AT&T might only contact those who use above 200%, 300GB or more, of the monthly cap. The issue may not be implementation technology, but competition. In my area there is no Uverse available and Cox is expanding DOCSIS 3.0 service options with much higher monthly usage caps. DSL is not competitive or attractive to many customers who cannot get more than 768Kbps DSL due to distance limitations. Those same potential customers will soon be able to get 50Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 from COX. Why bother with caps in an area where you soon will be offering such a low value service as 768Kbps DSL against possible 50, 100, or 150 Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 service with caps that are 3 or more times as large?

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  8. Folks who are not metered yet are not charged for the overages. T’s customers who are in metered zones are the only ones paying the $10/50GB surcharge. Was there any fact checking done for this article? When did GigOM get in the FUD business?

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    1. AT&T’s spokesman and the statement above.

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  9. Well they must have changed their minds because I had to call support for some internet problems, and the tech showed me exactly where my broadband usage number was on my account page. Incidentily I had 10 gb’s left of 250 and 11 days until cap reset. (d@mn netflix streaming >.< )Asking how I used so much in a month he told me every data thing counts against the cap, netflix, youtube streaming, xbox and ps3 playing, cell phone web useage if connected to home network, etc. Also its only $10 for every 50gb over cap, so its not that bad, although as for emailing when I reached certain limits, I have yet to see an email stating I was at 65/90/100. But whatever, now I know where to look to see my monthly data usage.For those that don't know where to look its very plain. Log in to your account, it will start on the overview page, hover your pointer over INTERNET on the bar that has "Overview Bill & Payment Wireless Digital TV Internet Home Phone Messages & Email Profile My Orders Apps att.net" you will see a drop down box appear, you will see USAGE AND RECENT ACTIVITY, click on it and Wah Lah! you will see your monthly usage summary with gb's used and how many you have left, how many days until cycle reset, and below that you will see day to day download/upload/total usage. I guess the OP must be one of the unlucky ones that hasn't had that implemented into their account summary yet I'm not sure, but I see my data usage clearly. Good Luck finding yours!

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    1. Thanks for the information on your account. I attempted to access my usage that would count against my “CAP”. I supposedly have a 250 GB cap in place. This is what AT&T supplies me.
      Quote:
      Note: Your usage is not yet available for display. You should not be concerned about your usage for billing purposes. AT&T will keep you informed about your data usage via email.

      To learn more about how to manage your usage, please visit http://www.att.com/internet-usage.
      Thus they do not offer a means for me to review my usage nor do they provide the figures. We are a three person household with tablets TVs PCS and phones uisng our ISP provider yet cannot be supplied with a means to determine usage yet are subject to an overage if we exceed their CAP. Time for Big Brother to rectify this situation by measuring and certifying the method AT&T employs to determine our usage and to provide the consumer with usable tools and/or dae so support the effective management of internat usage. Maybe its just the fact that I can dump U-Verse and go with Comcast(shudder) that they haven’t employed a means to measure usage or they can’t accurately measure usage.

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  10. Ahhh, after re-reading the article I noticed it was a U-verse problem. That could be why it hasnt been implemented into the account summary yet. As U-verse isnt in my area yet (and I doubt it will be within the next few years although there are vrads all around in my area) it’s anyones guess why they havent started adding the usage gauge to u-verse accounts yet. ATT is just weird like that. Over 30 million units already, something like 4 billion in revenue last year from it and they still are trying to figure out where to even add it. I’ve seen it in places that make absolutely no sense (well, kind of makes sense when they had to replace the system in that area they went ahead added the vrads and lines) and have seen million dollar home sub divisions that were just outside the 3000-3500 foot range of the nearest vrad (with no pair bonding to stretch it a bit further to reach them) I swear, putting band aids on the old system instead of ponying up the millions it cost to go ahead and implement it into established communities is just weird business practice. 4 billion can be 8 if they weren’t such scrooges…but I digress…long story short, im assuming because its a u-verse account is why they dont have their account summaries up to par yet :p

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