AT&T Will Roll Out Tiered Internet Access In October

If you stream movies or other high-bandwidth content and you’re an AT&T customer, get ready to pay more later this year. AT&T will introduce tiered Internet access packages this October, said one of their executives yesterday at an FCC hearing.

“When AT&T provides broadband service by speed, it will do so in discrete, non-overlapping tiers,” Quinn said in written testimony. “We will strive to provide service within the speed tier purchased by the customer and, if we find that we are not providing service within the ordered speed tier, AT&T will take action either to bring the customer’s service within the ordered tier or give the customer an option to move to a different tier.”

There’s actually no word on pricing yet, but we’re going to make a bold, brave prediction that you’ll pay more than your current package for the better tiers.

“AT&T To Create Tiered Internet Access For Subscribers” [CNN Money]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Murph1908 says:

    If I had AT&T, I wouldn’t anymore.

    Take note Verizon.

  2. RBecho says:

    Is this any different than how you can buy into different levels of speed from Time Warner / Comcast / pretty much every cable internet provider?

  3. dweebster says:

    How much extra bandwidth should we purchase to compensate for the loss from their illegal wiretapping?

    Oh, now it’s retroactively legal, huh? Still, do we pay for the bandwidth or is their spying on their dime?

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    So it is speed tiering, not a cap on how much you can download per month? That isn’t so bad, I guess. I mean I stream movies (Netflix) and play games online (Xbox Live), so either would stink.

    (and once Netflix is on my 360, I’m going to be streaming a lot more!)

  5. zomgorly says:

    If I get this right instead of offering 3 Mbps speed they will over one that’s like 1.5 to 3 Mbps. Then when you call and complain you get only 1.5 speed most of the time you the service they will off you the higher 3.0 to 5.0 Mbps.

  6. Tmoney02 says:

    @Murph1908: It sounds bad but from reading the article it is actually a good thing unless I missed something. I will explain below…

    @RBecho: Is this any different than how you can buy into different levels of speed from Time Warner / Comcast / pretty much every cable internet provider?

    With the usual agreement you are talking about you buy a certian goal speed. So you buy a package “with speeds up to 6mb”. Now you may only get 2-3 mbs during peak hours but the potential was there to reach at 6mb if traffic was empty.

    At&T will but a bottom limit. So you buy a package that is the 4mb-6mb. If you are ever slower than 4mb they will do whatever they can to fix it. If they can’t fix it they will drop you to the next lower tier. So it sounds like they will be offering consistency in their connection speeds, in exchange for a slightly higher price than others.

  7. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @dweebster: You’ll need extra bandwidth to accommodate AT&T’s mandatory spyware.

  8. blackmage439 says:


    The wiretapping is from the offices of the NSA, so in a sense (through your income tax) you’re already paying for the spying.

    Anyway, the key here isn’t the speed of the connection, it’s your daily/weekly/monthly/etc. allotment of total bandwidth. Some companies, like Comcast, already enforce mystery caps on total data transferred in a month.

    The future of ISP advertising will no longer be download speeds and features: it will be your monthly data caps. Just pray that Internet Neutrality doesn’t fail, or you can add what sites you’re allowed to visit to that list of tiered prices…

  9. iMe2 says:

    If I’m reading this right, they already charge by speed tier but only with the “up to x speed” language – they want to guarantee a certain speed range but they can’t control “shared” traffic but they can measure the user-end.

    So is it they’ll simply charge more to people who use more bandwidth but use so much that they’re slowing down other users speeds? I didn’t read that clearly…

  10. fostina1 says:

    i thought att already did tiered dsl. i have it for 19.95/month they also have plans for 29.95 and 39.95 it was formerly bellsouth but now its att right.

  11. YuFongPi says:

    AT$T U-Verse offers tiered internet bandwith today. And, it does cost more… I upgraded from the ‘Pro’ tier, and am now paying 2 1/2 times more for the ‘Max’ speed.

    Express – Downstream up to 1.5 Mbps/Upstream up to 1 Mbps
    Pro – Downstream up to 3 Mbps/Upstream up to 1 Mbps
    Elite – Downstream up to 6 Mbps/Upstream up to 1 Mbps
    Max – Downstream up to 10 Mbps/Upstream up to 1.5 Mbps

  12. jblake1 says:

    According to the article it is referring to “dedicated phone lines”. I believe they are referring to T-1 type lines not DSL.

  13. Audiyoda says:

    Talk about over reaction.

    I work for a AT&T Solutions Provider – the pricing structure will simply take the existing pricing tiers from AT&T Uverse and transfer them over to the straight DSL side (in those markets where Uverse is not available). 1.5Mbit – which is considered their basic tier won’t change in speed or price from what we’ve been told. They are simply changing the faster speeds/prices to match the UVerse packages speeds/prices.

    So in a nutshell – these new pricing structures will bring two services (DSL and Uverse) with two different pricing structures and speed caps into a common tier/price point structure.

    At least this is what we’ve been told to expect in October.

  14. Tmoney02 says:

    @fostina1: @YuFongPi:

    That type of tier is not what they are talking about. see this qoute from the article:

    ” The new service will change AT&T’s current practice of guaranteeing subscribers Internet speeds “up to” their subscribed amount.

    “When AT&T provides broadband service by speed, it will do so in discrete, non-overlapping tiers,” Quinn said in written testimony. “We will strive to provide service within the speed tier purchased by the customer and, if we find that we are not providing service within the ordered speed tier, AT&T will take action either to bring the customer’s service within the ordered tier or give the customer an option to move to a different tier.””

    Which leads me to belive they are setting up something as described in my previous comment —->@Tmoney02:

  15. elanne says:

    I already have it. That is, BellSouth (now ATT) has had pricing tiers for a while. There are four tiers. The top and fastest tier is forty plus dollars. The third, which is very zippy and accommodates wireless networking, is $37.99. Not sure what the bottom two prices are, but they are reasonable.
    Service is good, my connection is right on, and I’m, so far, satisfied with it.

  16. “…if we find that we are not providing service within the ordered speed tier, AT&T will take action…”

    Riiiight. They’re going to proactively monitor connectivity and automatically stop overcharging customers for faster internet access than they’re getting, rather than waiting for the customer to complain.

  17. copious28 says:

    They are going to have a tough time with quality of lines. Most of the North Texas area, for example is running on very old cables (that may or may not get wet when it rains) that cant support the consistency they are talking about. I cant get faster than 650kb down at my house. I lowered my service to the lowest level because of this.
    I would like to see the contract when that comes out. I am sure its lip service to justify the extra charges when people are heavy users–aka anti-network-neutrality.

  18. Norcross says:

    If they give a minimum guarantee, that would be nice. I know that most T-1 providers give you a guarantee on both ends (top and bottom), and you get credited with any time that it wasn’t in that range.

  19. magic8ball says:

    So which is it? Are they charging for the amount you download, or for the speed at which you are able to download?

  20. wheresmysamuraii says:

    As long as they don’t raise their prices drastically or put a monthly cap on data transfers, I’ll be sticking with AT&T. I have had very very few problems with them over the past 4 years that I’ve had them, while my sister with comcast internet service is constantly complaining about how terrible her service consistency is.

    The tiers here is a good thing. It’s a guarantee that you won’t drop below a certain speed. If I’m paying for 3 Mbps, I want 3 Mbps or something close to it. With the current system your speeds could drop to dial up level and there isn’t anything that they would do for you. I’d pay more for a guarantee that I’m getting 2-3 Mbps instead of a “you might get 3 Mbps at 3 am in the morning, if you’re lucky”.

  21. satoru says:

    Pretty much all ISP’s especially those on DSL are tiered. FIOS is tiered, Comcast is tiered. What’s the big deal? I’m not sure why they bothered announcing this as a big deal…

  22. Average_Joe says:

    Considering we suspended sales tax online to promote online business, it would seem we are going to have to legislate unlimited services in order to allow video on demand services a chance. At one dollar a gigabyte. A 3-4 gigabyte movie is going to cost you 3-4 bucks more to buy. That’s a ridiculous tax any way you look at it. A 20 dollar netflix subscription could cost you an extra 50 dollars in bandwidth fees or more. This stock market driven economy is failing on so many levels.

  23. Cache22 says:

    @magic8ball: I still can’t figure out from the article what is changing. They already offer tiered plans, I currently have a choice of 4 different DSL speeds I can choose from. At one time, I was too far away to reliably use the higher speed plan, so the most they would give me is the lower plan … so the part about taking action to move the customer to a different plan if the current one can’t achieve fast enough speeds is nothing new. Eventually there were some local equipment upgrades, and from that point on the higher speed plans were now valid options when doing the DSL availability check.

    The part that worries me is this: “clearly identify any limitations on the amount of usage that may apply to a customer’s service plan.” That is very vague. They already clearly define limitations on usage in regards to maximum speed, so the only thing it could mean (if it is anything new) is that they may potentially put caps on total data transferred in addition to the speed constraints.

  24. logicalnoise says:

    I have the pro teir(3 down 768 up) and only get 2/3rds of what I pay for. I’ve yet to call them on it but it sounds like they may be interested in helping me now.

  25. tedyc03 says:

    This is pretty par for the course…charging for different speeds. Ho-hum. No worries from me.

  26. proxemics says:

    see now, my assumption from this is that this is not an affect on your internet speed, since that is already tiered. but rather your usage, ie: downloads and amount of data transferred. those of us who use more internet, pay more, those who dont, pay less. this also seems to make more sense in the area of them accommodating tiers for people and switching your tier for you. i personally think this is lame, unless they can offer guarantees of speed along with data. and i say this as a long standing customer of ATT in TX (which i have never had issues with)

  27. proxemics says:

    @proxemics: edit: does mention speed in quote, but how does that make sense when they already have tiered pricing based on speed???

  28. RodAox says:

    what the heck do you do with 10mbs ? I mean I am bandwidth hog every now and then but what possibly could you do with 10mbs?

  29. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    I swear to God. Teds Stevens is without a doubt the best thing to ever happen to imagry concerning the internet.

  30. Techno Viking says:

    Well, all of you better go to [] and choose Tools and run all the tests that you can over there. It will help you configure your dsl modem for optimum speed and connectivity. Works for Cable modems as well and is free. A lot of good info for you to read there.

  31. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    The article sounds like they’re saying instead of getting speeds “up to 3Mb” you’ll get speeds of XMb to YMb where it will never drop below X and never be faster than Y.

    At least that’s what “discrete, non-overlapping tiers” sounds like to me. Someone in tier one won’t be getting a speed that’s in tier two and vice-versa.

  32. dlab says:

    This sounds confusing as hell. Right now former Bellsouth offers several “tiers” of service. It sounds to me like this is saying that AT&T Internet services will stop being “best effort.” FYI, best effort means you can’t complain about slow speeds unless your speeds waaaay below what you are paying for.

    I think if AT&T rolls this out, there will probably be massive loss of revenue since they will need to downgrade all the customers whose lines are not qualified for the speed plans they are purchasing…

  33. Jaysyn was banned for: says:


    You are right & wrong. The NSA has secure facilities set up at various AT&T C.O.s. AT&T makes about $1500 from each wiretap they perform.

  34. Joedragon says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:
    dsl does not work 100% like that the phone line and how far you are is what controls your max speed and what speed you get.

  35. failurate says:

    I read this as AT&T will be offering people discounts if they can’t deliver the speed the person ordered.

  36. mzs says:

    It is obvious what was really meant is that we will buy caps (GB/mo) in addition to speeds for the plans that we buy. This solves the whole VOD and P2P issues for AT&T.

  37. Imakeholesinu says:

    As long as they aren’t capping speeds this sounds like they aren’t changing anything other than bringing the prices of DSL to the same level as U-Verse…kinda like they are phasing out DSL in favor of U-Verse which I believe is actually the case. I’ve called AT&T twice to see if I can get 3MB DSL. One rep says yes the other says no. The second rep told me I need to get U-Verse in order to get the 3MB speed, even though I can see the loop from my front window!

  38. Imakeholesinu says:


    Where exactly was mentioned that they are going to put caps on?

  39. Trai_Dep says:

    Will AT&T have the same sloppy margin of error (in the consumer’s favor) for bandwidth totals as they do when excusing themselves for not meeting their advertised bandwidth speeds?
    And I’m assuming that AT&T will give credits for those that don’t come near to the maximums at each tier? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    I think an order of magnitude leeway is fair. Else they’re lying hypocrites. Lying, immorally spying, wanna-be Stazi hypocrites.

  40. ViperBorg says:

    AT&T keeps doing this crap, not only will I NEVER use them for my phone service (not like I would with my VoIP setup), but I’ll drop my cell phone service with them too.

  41. AT&T customer (former Bell South) here.

    So what. I am paying for 3MB service. I am routinely hitting 2.8/2.9 MB service, so I am pretty happy. In my market 6MB is the max service offered. I could “upgrade” to 6MB service, but under today’s terms there is no guarantee of 6MB service. Under the new rules I might upgrade to 6MB if I was assured of actually hitting close to 6MB.

    Truthfully I am waiting for 12MB or higher service to upgrade as the gains from 3MB to 6MB would just not be enough to justify the upgrade.

    IF AT&T wants to cap my service, by all means do it. Sure, I will miss downloading some of my p_rn every month, but it ain’t like I really need to be downloading as much as I am downloading.

  42. thewriteguy says:

    AT&T has had this for a while in several parts of the country where they serve. I wanted to upgrade my bandwidth speed, but AT&T determined it wasn’t possible since they said the phone wiring infrastructure in the building I live in isn’t capable of providing bandwidth over 700Kbps. So I’m still on the cheapest plan and lowest bandwidth speed that they offer.

  43. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    The internet is being destroyed by the “providers.”

    When will the inventor of the internet, Al Gore, make sure this doesn’t happen?

  44. liquisoft says:

    If these guys were significantly lowering the cost of the “basic” speed package, I wouldn’t have a problem. But they’re not. They’re leaving everything the same and then charging more for slightly more usage and speed. This is why people hate these telcos.

  45. codpilot says:

    Folks, you really should read the whole article alllll the way to the bottom. Not only does it mention speed tiers it also adds:

    “AT&T plans to change its customer contracts and disclosures to reflect the change, Quinn said. Those notices also will “clearly identify any limitations on the amount of usage that may apply to a customer’s service plan.””

    So there you have it – data caps. AT&T will more than likely start capping transfers too – at what level we’ll just have to wait and see!

  46. failurate says:

    Am I the only one that just automatically assumes that a person is a child-pornographer when they bitch and moan about government invading internet privacy?@dweebster

    Maybe I watch too much Law and Order SVU.

  47. G-Dog says:

    “clearly identify any limitations on the amount of usage that may apply to a customer’s service plan.”


    “Punish our users for streaming free content rather than paying for our TV services.”

    I’m calling AT&T tomorrow to see when my contract with them is up.

  48. I think AT&T should suck my balls generally for a) bilking me out of $850 and b) charging me NINE-FUCKING-FIFTY a month for the privilege of having a phone line attached to my house because I live in a “rural” area. That “rural” area is known as “THE GODDAMNED CENTER OF A CITY COMPLETE WITH SHITTY URBAN SCHOOLS.”

    I pay $9.50/month for the line and $.50/month for the calling plan. $19.95 for the high speed internet because I bitch every time they raise me to $24.95 — but STILL … the stupid-ass line charge adds 50% to my bill every month!

  49. SJActress says:

    Alls I know is UVerse is now compatible with TiVo through IR codes, so I’ll give it a try.

    I’ll give anything a try as long as it plays well with TiVo.

    I wish TiVo and Netflix were combined. I would literally bow down to THAT company.

  50. Ken says:

    Hmm.. i don’t know why everyone flock to the fastest speed. I had 5mbps and was paying a lot for it.. i switched to at&t for $10 month online promotion… they say i will get 700down and 300up.. in reality, i got 300 down and 300 up but either way, I’m able to play my online games. I don’t download bittorrent like I used to but I know I still can, I just have to leave my pc on over night.

    I went from Charter’s 3 package deal
    TV, phone, internet $130 after tax


    phone (receive only), internet = 25 after tax

    I tell sell internet service to my neighbors, charging them a total of $25..

  51. jonworld says:

    At least the tiers are based on speed and it’s only AT&T. As a web designer and an all-around heavy downloader, I would be pissed if Comcast added bandwidth tiers to their internet service…oh wait…their sort of doing it already by prioritizing the network so heavy users get slower speeds during high-traffic periods!

    Throughout the day, my internet will be running at blazing speeds. However, during the early evening hours, the internet in my house seems to drag along like molasses while my neighbors have no such complaints.

  52. Maulleigh says:

    This will be interesting to watch. They have all the ipod people over a barrel. Will all the other providers follow suit or will they lower their prices like smart businesses should? I predict the latter.

  53. synergy says:

    @blackmage439: I’m guessing Internet Neutrality is the next item on the block.