AT&T To Test Usage Caps In Reno

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Washington—AT&T,  blaming a few bandwidth hogs for clogging its high-speed Internet network, is launching a trial in Reno, Nev. that would impose new fees on customers for exceeding monthly usage caps.

AT&T officials disclosed the plan, which was vague in some key respects, during an Oct. 31 meeting with an aide to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, agency records show.

AT&T officials said the trial was a response to "a small minority of our broadband Internet access customers consum[ing] a disproportionately large amount of the total bandwidth available to all the customers on a network”—practically the same words Comcast Corp. used to justify management of BitTorrent traffic that a 3-2 FCC majority found unacceptable in August.

AT&T intends to start the trial in November, but didn't provide the exact date, the number of customers to be included or the trial's duration.

AT&T also failed to disclose dollar amount consumers would need to pay for violating usage limits.

"... AT&T will be providing written notice to customers involved in the trial explaining that their broadband service will be subject to certain monthly usage tier for the total amount of data they may send and receive, as well as a per gigabyte charge in the event they exceed the usage tier," AT&T told the FCC.

Consumers will have access to an AT&T-supplied "usage metering tool" that will display that month's bandwidth consumption on a running basis. AT&T said it will send a written notice when 80% of the monthly quota has been used, along with a reminder about additional charges for exceeding the cap.

A customer who has exceeded the cap a second time will be "subject to additional per gigabyte charges," AT&T said.

New and existing customers, AT&T said, that don't want to participate may cancel their service "without an early termination penalty."

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