Heavy AT&T DSL users could see additional fees

A spokesperson for AT&T says the company is mulling an additional charge atop the standard monthly rate for those who use a large amount of bandwidth.

About five percent of AT&T's DSL user base consumes about half of the total bandwidth, and the top one percent of high-consumers use essentially a fifth of total bandwidth, according to AT&T spokesperson Michael Coe. It is this small segment of the market that AT&T is considering slapping with an additional fee.

Coe told reporters on Thursday that his company has not come to a decision on how to proceed, but called usage-based pricing "inevitable."

Usage is only surging, with the amount of bandwidth used doubling every 18 months.

At least one other cable provider is already testing such a plan, with Time Warner Cable charging users for excess bandwidth used over their allowance. Every gigabyte over the limit customers go costs them an additional dollar. This plan is being tested currently in Beaumont, Texas.

Instead of charges, Comcast has opted to throttle heavy users during peak periods. Tests of this approach to the problem are ongoing in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and Warrenton, Virginia.

Caps on downloads could put a crimp on the burgeoning digital media market. Services like Vudu and iTunes depend on the capability to transfer large amounts of data easily in order to make their services viable. If users were to be limited from transferring significant amounts of data, these services could be directly affected.

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