AT&T data caps impose toughest penalties on DSL users

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AT & T’s home internet data caps were revised yesterday when the company implemented a recently announced plan to strictly enforce caps and collect overage charges from more customers. Customers stuck on AT & T’s legacy DSL architecture will face lower caps and potentially higher overage charges than customers with more modern internet service.

AT&T put a positive spin on the changes when it announced them in March, saying it was increasing the monthly data limits on most home internet customers. This was technically true because AT&T already had caps for most Internet users. But previously, caps were only applied in DSL areas, so the limits had no financial impact on most customers. Now, a large number of AT&T customers have moved from unlimited plans to capped plans, with an additional charge of $ 10 for every 50 GB of additional data provided per month.

The only customers who aren’t getting an increase in their monthly data allowance are those who have faced caps in recent years, according to AT&T. data usage website:

U-verse plans that previously had an unenforced cap of 250 GB per month will now have imposed caps of either 300 GB or 600 GB, while 500 GB plans have been increased to 1 TB. The DSL cap, meanwhile , remains at 150 GB per month. DSL users can also face overage fees of up to $ 200 per month, while U-verse customers face an overage fee of up to $ 100 per month. For customers trying to avoid overage charges, AT&T offers such advice such as choosing low definition video and limiting the use of torrents and other file transfer programs. The overage charges are waived for the first two months in which customers exceed their limits.

But where is the cut between the DSL plans with the lower limits and the U-verse plans with the new higher limits? The AT&T chart above shows that customers with speeds as low as 768 kbps will receive at least 300 GB per month. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that only customers with less than 768 kbps are affected by the lower caps, as the chart doesn’t account for speeds for DSL.

This other AT&T web page shows that DSL plans – or “Broadband Internet, AT & T’s euphemism for DSL – range from 200 kbps to 6 Mbps. From the 1.56 Mbps to 6 Mbps range, there are separate plans that have speeds identical but are marked as “U-verse”:

This seems to indicate that in the 6 Mbps and less range, two clients living in different areas might have the same speeds but different data caps. If the distinction is not made on speed, it could be made on the basis of architecture. The “U-verse” brand is generally used in areas where AT&T has built fiber closer to homes, but some of the U-verse speeds are still quite low. We’ve asked AT&T for clarification on this and will provide an update if we get one.

Back in 2013, AT&T told DSLReports that the application of the cap was not necessary in U-verse areas due to “the higher capacity of the U-verse architecture compared to the old DSL”. Data caps, especially on wireline Internet services, are imposed for business rather than technical reasons, as a Comcast executive acknowledged.

If there is one “good” for AT&T DSL users, it’s that their slow speeds can make it difficult to go over the 150 GB limit. But for those over the cap, it could be a big deal. because customers in AT & T’s DSL areas often have no other choice for wired internet.

These are often the same areas where AT&T would like to shut down the traditional copper-based fixed telephone network and move customers to more profitable wireless networks. This won’t happen without Federal Communications Commission oversight, but in some areas the network has already deteriorated to the point where AT&T will not connect new customers requesting DSL Internet service.


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