AT&T set to roll out Internet usage caps in May

A year after it adopted a tiered pricing strategy for wireless data, AT&T (NYSE:T) has announced it would be imposing data usage caps on its wireline customers as well, including subscribers to its U-verse TV service.

The telco said DSL subscribers would have a 150 GB cap, and premium U-verse customers would see their monthly data cap set at 250 GB. Customers who go over the caps three times will be billed $10 for each additional 50 gibabytes of usage.

AT&T said the caps are being put in place to ensure customers aren't impacted by bandwidth hogs. The company said only two percent of its customers are likely to be affected, with the average customer consuming far less data than the usage caps allow.

"We are committed to providing a great experience for all of our Internet customers," spokesman Mark Siegel said. He said customers will be notified as they near their monthly caps, with alerts being sent out at 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of usage allowances.

AT&T and other operators are trying to quickly get a handle on burgeoning data usage being driven by consumer adoption of online video products from companies like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube and Hulu, among others. Last year, a report from tech firm Sandvine, said Netflix traffic accounts for more than 20 percent of all downstream traffic in the U.S. during peak hours. Nielsen, meanwhile, reported that U.S. viewing of online videos was up 45 percent in January compared to the same period in 2010.

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