AT&T Inc. said it would begin to cap DSL data usage for its customers and begin to implement charges for anyone who goes over the limit.
The Dallas telecommunications giant said that customers who went over a limit of 150 gigabytes of data a month three times would be charged $10 for every extra 50 gigabytes of data they consume. Customers on its higher-end U-Verse Internet service have a limit of 250 gigabytes. AT&T will impose the new limit on May 2.
AT&T’s move represents an expansion of its policy to charge based on usage, following last year’s move to a tiered pricing structure for wireless data. The service providers have been juggling the explosion of demand for video, gaming and other bandwidth-intensive applications running across the networks with the cost to ensure there is sufficient equipment to smoothly handle the traffic. As in mobile, AT&T says the change in policy is to ensure the quality of the customer experience.
“We are committed to providing a great experience for all of our Internet customers,” said spokesman Mark Siegel. He added that some customers have been using a disproportionate amount of data, causing congestion in certain points of the network and interfering with other people’s access.
The move comes amid broader changes to how the industry sells data services and increased scrutiny over “unlimited” plans. Sprint Nextel Corp. Chief Executive Dan Hesse recently took to the airwaves in another commercial to break down the different kinds of limits that are placed on data plans, Verizon Wireless says it plans to introduce its own tiered plans in the summer.
AT&T said that it would alert customers multiple times if they are near or exceeding the limit, including proactive notifications when a customer hits 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their monthly allowance. Similar to its wireless service, the carrier would provide tools to allow customers to check on their usage.
The carrier said less than 2 percent of its 17.8 million broadband customers would be affected by the policy. The company plans to send notification of the change later this week. AT&T isn’t the only Internet service provider to try out caps. Cable companies Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. have already rolled out their own limited Internet plans. AT&T itself previously tested a number of capped landline Internet plans in select markets.