Data Usage

Well, unless you live under a rock (or have a decent internet provider), you are aware that AT&T has decided to ‘cap’ internet usage to 150 Gigabytes for DSL users and 250 or so for U-verse.  You go over that limit and you charged extra fees and may be ‘throttled’ (i.e. AT&T reduces your connection speed).

BTW: AT&T says that we’ll get warnings at 65% usage.  Of course, according to my calculations, I’ve passed 65% usage and haven’t heard a word from them.)  Oh and you can’t fight this either.  AT&Ts new contracts (and a Supreme Court ruling) basically say you have to arbitrate (can’t sue) and you must do so as individuals, no class-actions available.  On the other hands, lots of individual cases are more expensive than one big one.  It’d be interesting to see the numbers if a bunch of consumers started calling for arbitration.

Back to data caps…

Now, this is totally ridiculous.  AT&T says this will only affect 1%-2% of its users.  Really?  Businesses write-off more customer accounts than that every month.  Is way overcharging 1-2% of the users on the network really worth the expense of developing monitoring software, and billing software, and the staff to maintain it, much less bring in a profit (which is what companies want)?

I don’t think so.  The reason that AT&T’s network is easily clogged is because they are using outdated technology and don’t upgrade it.  I know this applies to their wireless service, I highly suspect it is the case with internet service.

Look at it this way.  DSL is run over the phone lines.  Since AT&T (through Ma Bell) already had the phone lines, the only charge to run DSL to your home is a big router in the central trunk and your modem at home.  The home modem and router costs about $120 retail (I’m sure AT&T gets a bulk discount), which means that my service pays for the modem in 4 months or less.  I’ll assume that my part of the central trunk router (considering it covers several neighborhoods and AT&T is effectively the only internet provider for those neighborhoods) takes about two months of my service fees (remember we’re talking hundreds of homes here).  So, in 6 months I have paid the capital costs of my entire setup.

I really don’t think it’s a full six months, it more probably be 3-4 months.  Everything after that is gravy… for AT&T.

Now, I don’t know, but I suspect that AT&T does not have to pay for trunk access.  I actually suspect that they charge other companies for internet trunk access.

Now about data caps.

The first problem is that AT&T is known not to be able to accurately measure data usage (which is why I’ve been recording my usage daily for the entire month of May).

Next, why would basically removing 1-2% of the traffic (or reducing 1-2% of the traffic have any effect on everyone else’s internet experience.  The equivalent is saying that the DPS will remove the 1-2% of vehicles that use the highway the most.  And that will reduce congestion at rush hour.  Really?

Finally, according to a technical specialist, AT&T lied to congress about this.

Claims of congestion are notoriously hard to validate from outside the network, but industry analyst Dave Burstein does extensive writing about and consulting for various ISPs; he fired off a tweet this morning saying that AT&T “lied” to the Wall Street Journal. “Congestion is minimal,” Burstein said.

AT&T’s DSL network does not rely on a shared local loop like cable uses (something which used to cause problems when everyone in a neighborhood arrived home from work and hopped on the Internet). In a DSL network, every home has a separate line to the central office, where it connects to an aggregator called a DSLAM and eventually leaves the building on a fiber connection to join regional and then national backbone traffic.

Upgrading DSL networks to engineer around congestion problems can often be relatively inexpensive. Instead of deploying expensive work crews to dig trenches all over a town to fix last-mile issues, centralized upgrades of the DSLAMs and the backhaul connection can relieve local stress. Further upstream, congestion may occur at larger regional switches and routers.

AT&T has not shared any detailed information on the nature, extent, and location of its congestion problems. Critics often charge that the big incumbent ISPs could simply make their bandwidth woes disappear with a bit more investment, a claim fed this weekend by news out of Britain that one of the largest ISPs there has just removed some bandwidth caps due to more infrastructure investment.

Really.  So, if there is congestion, then it is most likely ON THE INTERNET ITSELF rather than AT&Ts network.  Plus, an inexpensive upgrade to some routers will take care of the problem.  (remember, the lines are just your phone lines, so no new cables have to be run).

Finally, no one, except for AT&T really know what’s going on in their network.  And they aren’t telling and those that they are required to talk to, they are probably lying to.

So, why data caps?  I suspect that this is just the tip of the iceberg for the US internet woes.  Many other countries have better infrastructure and more pervasive internet access than the US.


P.S. More on Your Inner Fish  soon.  It’ll be a rough couple of weeks with business travel and all.

I suspect that this is just, really big company can’t figure out how to survive in a new environment and is doing its best to keep investors happy (while the customers complain).

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One Response to Data Usage

  1. Pingback: An Open Letter to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson | Cassandra's Tears

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