AT&T Copies Comcast, Lets U-Verse Customers Pay $30 To Avoid Data Caps

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

We don’t know why anyone would want to be like Comcast, but AT&T sure seems to be doing its best to dress itself up just like the chaps from Kabletown. They both hate community broadband and will lobby to shut it down when it competes with their services, and they both only offer competitive pricing when Google Fiber is in the mix. Now AT&T is following Comcast’s lead on data caps, by generously offering to let customers pay more to avoid running into those monthly limits.

Yesterday, AT&T announced some news for its U-Verse subscribers. Starting May 23, most U-verse Internet users will see higher monthly limits, with the slowest tier now having access to 300GB of data a month and the fastest levels of service getting up to a terabyte of data:
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If you’re using U-Verse for Internet but getting AT&T-owned DirecTV satellite TV service, there will be no monthly data cap. Of course, it’s no coincidence that AT&T is exempting DirecTV customers just as the company prepares to roll out a streaming version of the pay-TV service. This means that U-Verse customers won’t have to worry about falling asleep streaming a marathon of House Hunters and ending up with an overage charge.

But the real kicker is the Comcast-esque “unlimited” offering that AT&T is making so generously available. For just $30/month — on top of all the other stuff on your bill — you won’t have to worry about possibly running up against the data cap.

Comcast pioneered this fee — which it admits has absolutely nothing to do with network congestionback in September, when it began expanding the data cap “test” it has been meddling with for several years.

Thousands of Comcast customers have already complained to the FCC about these data caps. Among the various gripes filed with the regulators are numerous instances of customers claiming that Comcast’s online metering tool — which is supposed to indicate how much data a customer has used in a billing cycle — was inoperative or inaccurate.

Under the new U-Verse plan, going over the monthly allotment will result in charges of $10 for every 50GB of data you use over your cap, meaning you’d need to use more than an additional 150GB of data each month to justify spending the extra $30/month on AT&T’s unlimited plan. By the company’s math, that’s another 50 hours of HD streaming.

The company says that it will use a system of warnings and alerts to let them know when they are using too much data.

The first time you hit 100% of your data allowance, you’ll get an email but no charges will be tacked onto your account.

The second time, you’ll get emails when you’ve reached 65%, 90%, and 100% of your limit but still won’t be charged.

After that, you’ll get the reminder emails at 65% and 90% of your allotment, but if you hit 100%, you’ll be charged $10 for each 50GB of data you go over the maximum. Customers who enter into that cap-breaking space will receive additional reminders when they are at 75% and 100% of their add-on 50GB allotment. AT&T says it won’t charge more than $100 in a month for overage fees.

AT&T has a dubious history with the term “unlimited.” The company created unlimited wireless data plans to sell iPhones back in 2007 and 2008, only to later yank the plans from its offerings — and drive grandfathered unlimited customers onto tiered plans by throttling their data — after Verizon and others were able to sell the popular Apple phone. AT&T recently resurrected the idea, but only to sell its wireless service as a bundle with either U-Verse or DirecTV service.

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