Bummer! AT&T Implements Broadband Caps

AT&T (s T) is planning to send out letters next week notifying subscribers about a coming broadband cap of 150 GB per month for DSL subscribers and 250 GB per month for U-verse subscribers, says company spokesman Seth Bloom in an interview at SXSW. The company says that the move will affect less than 2 percent of its customers, and customers who go over the cap will pay $10 for each 50 GB bucket of data. The cap compares with other broadband caps offered by Comcast (s cmcsa) and Charter (s chtr) and reflects AT&T’s experience trialing tiered broadband back in 2009.

Bloom emailed me the following statement:

We are committed to providing a great experience for all of our Internet customers. Less than 2 percent of our Internet customers could be impacted by this approach — those who are using a disproportionate amount of bandwidth. We will communicate early and often with these customers so they are well aware of their options before they incur any additional usage charges. Importantly, we are not reducing the speeds, terminating service or limiting available data like some others in the industry.

Bloom says customers who use more than the 150 GB or 250 GB cap will get a one-time grace period, but in subsequent months, they will be notified when they hit 65 percent, 90 percent and then 100 percent of their respective caps. Bloom said that in its tiered broadband trials in 2009, the 2 percent of customers who tended to go over the proposed cap used 20 percent of the bandwidth, and the average AT&T DSL customer currently uses 18 GB per month. He didn’t have information on the average U-verse customer.

As a general rule, we’re not fans of broadband caps at GigaOM, believing they can act as a brake on innovation. However, implementing a relatively high cap is far more preferable to implementing tiered pricing. When asked if the operator would raise the cap in the future if broadband usage spikes, Bloom declined to comment. We can only hope.