AT&T shot back Wednesday after Free Press took aim at usage-based billing tests by companies like the telco that it said "are weighing similar schemes to hike prices, shut down the free-flowing Web an keep users in check."
The company said given the increase in traffic, metered pricing may be the fairest way to bill customers.
In a release announcing a bill that would charge the Federal Trade Commission with monitoring metered Internet billing, Free Press said that AT&T was testing a pricing scheme that would result in Internet overcharges that would "impact large numbers of consumers."
In a statement e-mailed to Multichannel News, the company said it is investing billions in infrastructure to handle the increased traffic load from e-mail, photos, video, games and more.
"Many studies now show that almost half of all Internet traffic is generated by just 5 percent of Internet users," it said. "Just one of these high-traffic users consumes as much bandwidth as 19 typical households, and in so doing contributes disproportionately to the risk of network congestion; something all consumers experience as slower than normal Web surfing or even broken up and scratchy streaming videos."
"It is in this context," said the company, "that we face the question of how to apportion the costs of shared network resources among users. We believe the fairest way may be to have the small number of users who generate massive amounts of traffic pay more than those who don't use as much."
"The Free Press Solution advocates for a radical and unprecedented government mandate that will demand that consumers have only one all-you-can-eat pricing model for Internet services," said AT&T in a statement. "In their zeal to protect high-volume users, Free Press is abandoning the vast majority of consumers who use the Internet in a more moderate fashion. In other words, Free Press prefers that grandma - who simply wants to download their grandchildren's online photos a few times a month - to pay for the heavy-using teenager who is downloading HD movies."