AT&T makes broadband data caps official

AT&T has officially started enforcing its data caps on wired broadband services for DSL and U-Verse customers.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

AT&T's usage caps for its DSL and U-Verse broadband services start today.


The blog Broadband Reports, which first broke the news of the caps in March, is reporting that starting today customers throughout the country are now subject to the caps on AT&T's terrestrial broadband services. AT&T confirmed that the new caps have gone into effect throughout AT&T's broadband footprint.

Now AT&T DSL subscribers will be limited to 150 gigabytes of uploads and downloads per month for regular DSL customers and 250GB of broadband usage per month for U-Verse subscribers. AT&T's U-Verse service is its upgraded and enhanced broadband service with fiber deployed closer to individual homes. The U-Verse can handle more data traffic than AT&T's traditional DSL network.

If customers exceed the monthly data caps for either the DSL or U-Verse broadband services three times, they will be charged $10 for every 50GB above the cap.

AT&T had tested the usage caps prior to the nationwide cap in portions of Texas and Nevada. During the those tests, the caps were 20GB a month. Other broadband providers have also tested caps. Time Warner had tested metered billing in a few markets in 2008. But the company did not implement the new usage-based billing system across its network after consumers protested and politicians questioned the practice. But Time Warner has indicated that it may re-introduce the idea at a later date.

AT&T and other broadband providers are looking at usage caps and usage-based billing as a way to rein in heavy data users. AT&T and other broadband providers say that heavy users often use a disproportionate amount of network resources, limiting how much capacity is available for the vast majority of customers.

While wireless data networks have been prone to more limitations, AT&T and others say the problem is not isolated to wireless subscribers. AT&T has already capped data usage for its wireless customers. Last year, it eliminated its unlimited mobile data plan for smartphones and replaced it with a service that is limited to 2GB service for $25 a month or a 250MB service for $15 a month. Customers who exceed those limits are charged for the additional usage.

In terms of its new DSL and U-Verse broadband data caps, AT&T says it will only affect a small proportion of customers, roughly 2 percent of all subscribers. Customers who are close to exceeding usage caps will be notified when usage hits 65 percent, 90 percent, and 100 percent of total usage. The carrier also plans to provide online tools to help customers track their usage.