AT&T Contemplates Imposing Higher Charges to Counter Bandwidth Hogs

Net neutrality rule making starts and AT&T contemplates overage charge for high bandwidth users

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has formally initiated a rule making process towards establishing net neutrality among the internet service providers. 

This proposed rule, which shall also apply to wireless broadband service providers like AT&T, has been a hot point of debate over several months now. 

If implemented, this would then make internet providers liable to provide access to all legal websites and applications without any selective blockage or slowing down of content. Wireless broadband providers have been strong opponents of the rule claiming that this could prove to be a huge hindrance in them offering quality service to their customers. This comes in the backdrop of a terrific growth in AT&T's broadband usage over the past few months that has led to constant criticisms among customers over their network congestion. 

Time and again, AT&T has acknowledged that smartphone users; mainly the iPhone owners have been voraciously consuming their bandwidth. Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates who agrees with AT&T's plight claims that 5% of the users sometimes take up to 90% of the bandwidth.

So what is AT&T's plan of action if net neutrality comes into effect? According to Ralph De La Vega, the CEO of AT&T Mobility, his company has seen

"data explosion like we've never seen … and a lot is driven by a small percentage of customers". De La Vega has confirmed that AT&T is in the process of finalizing a pricing plan that could impose higher charges on users consuming large volumes of data. According to him, AT&T has been: 

"experimenting with focus groups to figure out how to handle that [issue] of how to get that small percentage [of users] to carry their weight, if you will, without imposing on others in a way that's detrimental". 

While we can expect a lot of furore if AT&T moves ahead on this plan to penalize data consumers, it certainly makes a lot of sense for a majority of customers who are affected by the 1% of AT&T customers who Jack Gold calls 'bandwidth hogs'. 

With AT&T's iPhone exclusivity tentatively coming to an end next year and with the roll out of HSPA 7.2 in the coming few months, AT&T could face some relief from network congestion. However, considering that this is an industry-wide problem and not merely that of AT&T, we would tend to call this an inevitable move on part of AT&T when net neutrality comes about. 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

[via IDG News]

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