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Ask Slashdot: AT&T's Data Usage Definition Proprietary? 562

Posted by Soulskill
from the patented-arithmetic dept.
stox writes "As many of you know, AT&T has implemented caps on DSL usage. When this was implemented, I started getting emails letting me know my usage as likely to exceed the cap. After consulting their Internet Usage web page, I felt the numbers just weren't right. With the help of Tomato on my router, I started measuring my usage, and ended up with numbers substantially below what AT&T was reporting on a day-to-day basis. Typically around 20-30% less. By the way, this usage is the sum of inbound and outbound. At this point, I decided to contact AT&T support to determine what exactly they were defining as usage, as their web pages never really define it. Boy, did I get a surprise. After several calls, they finally told me they consider the methodology by which they calculate bandwidth usage to be proprietary. Yes, you read that right; it's a secret. They left me with the option to contact their executive offices via snail mail. Email was not an option. So, I bring my questions to you, all-knowing Slashdotters: are there any laws that require AT&T to divulge how they are calculating data usage? Should I contact my state's commerce commission or the FCC to attempt to get an answer to this?"
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Ask Slashdot: AT&T's Data Usage Definition Proprietary?

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  • Headers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DevTechb (2772901)
    Most likely you don't calculate TCP headers while AT&T rightfully does. That's why you get less bandwidth use.
    • Re:Headers (Score:4, Informative)

      by AvitarX (172628) <<gro.derdnuheniwydnarb> <ta> <em>> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:23AM (#41978577) Journal

      Is 20-30% A realistic estimation of TCP headers?

      If the numbers are correct I would say that a significant portion below the tcp/ip layer is being counted.

      How much retransmit/error correction is there in DSL? I personally wouldn't think that's valid to charge, but the argument could be made.

      As for for the original poster's question on law, I doubt there is any requirement, though if you challenge them in court, it would have to be revealed, or they have no evidence.

      • Re:Headers (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:05AM (#41978711)
        Why are you defending this practice?
        Lets face it, once they have the infrastructure in place, they dont need to charge extra for it.
        Sure bandwidth costs may increase as usage increases, but so what.. they are charging for it.
        Why is everyone so complacent about this crap?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          They can charge for whatever they want to.

          • Re:Headers (Score:5, Informative)

            by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:08AM (#41978931) Journal

            Yep. And they do.
            That's why I go elsewhere.

            That being said, my mom used AT&T. They never got her bill right (always overcharged), and we had to call and they would correct it, but having to do that every month or two sucked. I told that to an AT&T solicitor at my door once, as to why I wasn't interested. Rather than defending his client and get a sale, he responded, with a dismayed and somewhat depressed, "wow... I heard about the same thing from someone just down the street," and moved to the next door. My mom doesn't know anyone on my street other than me, so it seems to me, overcharing is not an uncommon issue with them, and they are just trying to find more clever ways to hide it.

            The author of TFS should verify that he's collecting headers, if so, he may have a case.

            • Re:Headers (Score:4, Interesting)

              by firex726 (1188453) <firex726@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:14AM (#41979781)

              When I was with Comcast their door to door salesmen started accusing/harassing me for stealing cable.
              Of course at the time I did not have a cable box and no way to connect the coax to anything.

              Turns out, a previous tech had mislabeled the wires, and my Apt had two wires listed. Someone else was plugging in theirs but it was labeled in pencil, as mine.

              • Re:Headers (Score:5, Interesting)

                by MNNorske (2651341) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:16AM (#41980795)
                I can do you one better there. When I moved into one apartment I plugged my tv into the wall expecting to be hooked up to the building antenna. Instead, I found I had Comcast. So I didn't say anything and just enjoyed the service expecting it to go away when a tech realized it was hooked up. About three months went by and a Comcast tech showed up at my door asking if I'd like to have their service, I said no thanks. Sure enough a little while later my tv was no longer receiving Comcast and I was on the building antenna. Another three months goes by and another Comcast tech showed up at my door and claimed I was receiving Comcast illegally. I told him no I wasn't I only go the over the air channels, he looked rather confused. Less than an hour later my tv suddenly was receiving Comcast again. Mislabeled wires? Techs that don't know what they're doing? I'm not sure, but it was entertaining.
          • Re:Headers (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jameshofo (1454841) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:38AM (#41979501)
            Exactly, but charging you whatever the market will bear, and not telling you what your actually paying for are two completely different things. He's being charged for a service, and he reasonably (SHOULD) have a right to understand how he may be over or under committing his connection to the service level he's selected and being provided. If they're dangling the bait of "you may go over and we'll charge you more money than you ever wanted to spend, or we're going to downgrade your service because we want more money" then it could just be the provider padding the numbers, now I'm assuming he's in the US and is not subject to taking what the grand master has allocated him he should have some kind of recourse.

            That being said, TCP/IP overhead accounting for 20-30%? If you utilize your connection regularly I'd be shocked, but it really depends on a lot of factors, there's no numbers on his actual throughput, so was sitting idle all month with just a windows PC checking for updates to Java, flash and windows every 5 minutes and whatever mallware he inevitably has, sure. Maybe he's on an ADSL that has a bunch of ATM overhead that goes on even if he's not transmitting, so there are legitimate reasons, but one would reasonably suspect you have a right to know that your actually being charged for that!
            • by pepty (1976012)

              That being said, TCP/IP overhead accounting for 20-30%?

              He's also being charged for the amount of data the NSA captures and transfers from his account, BwaHaHa!

        • Re:Headers (Score:5, Informative)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:39AM (#41979077) Homepage

          Sure bandwidth costs may increase as usage increases, but so what.. they are charging for it.

          They would love you to think that, but actually bandwidth costs have decreased significantly as usage has increased. The problem is not external bandwidth costs, it is oversubscription. They don't want to invest in expanding their internal network as much as they need to, instead just lumping more and more users on the same local pipes and hoping their access patterns are all little bursts. Of course streaming and P2P kill that.

        • Why are you defending this practice?

          Lets face it, once they have the infrastructure in place, they dont need to charge extra for it.

          Sure bandwidth costs may increase as usage increases, but so what.. they are charging for it.

          Why is everyone so complacent about this crap?

          An analogy would go sort of like this:

          I'm pissed that Company A is chopping off my leg, so I'll leave this God forsaken company and go to Company B, which says they don't chop off legs.

          - time passes -

          Well, I paid $300 to get away from Company A and now I'm pissed at Company B because they gnaw on my leg, but don't chop it off. They also saw my jugular vein once a month. I'm leaving them for Company C who says they don't saw, gnaw, or harm in any way.

          - time passes -

          $250 dollars to get away from B, and now

        • Re:Headers (Score:5, Insightful)

          by RulerOf (975607) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:02AM (#41980633)

          Lets face it, once they have the infrastructure in place, they dont need to charge extra for it. Sure bandwidth costs may increase as usage increases, but so what.. they are charging for it.

          That's the obnoxious thing. See, they sell you a connection; let's use an LTE-Wifi puck as an example. They say "speeds up to 25 Megabits per second," then they turn right around and give you a completely different number but disguise or attempt to justify it as a different metric altogether, such as "5 Gigabytes per month."

          Those are both measurements of bandwidth. All they did was move the scale. So let's even out the units:

          • (5 gigabytes) / (1 month) == 1.99368468 KBps
          • (25 megabits per second) / (1 kilobyte per second) == 3200 KBps

          However:

          • 3200 KBps != 1.993 KBps
          • Conclusion: Someone's lying.

          When you attempt to solve a problem with bandwidth by restricting transfer, all you do is alter the actual bandwidth that someone is paying for, while simultaneously shoving into the customer's hands an extremely effective method for automatically increasing their bill. This creates massive incentive to never use the service at all, which increases the quality of service for those that do use it, and generates significantly more profit than increasing capacity to compensate for actual usage. As a bonus, since the service is faster, it's easier for the less conscious to run up their own bills. Win-fucking-win-fucking-win. For everyone except the customer.

          It's just fucking wrong. Transfer caps are an artificial construct that do not actually address the problem. While they can work in theory, the fact that networks slow down in spite of the fact that they exist goes to show that they're a titanic pile of bullshit. They comically generate the money needed to address the actual problem with the service but they will stay around forever. Because fuck the customer.

      • Re:Headers (Score:5, Insightful)

        by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:08AM (#41978727) Journal

        As for for the original poster's question on law, I doubt there is any requirement, though if you challenge them in court, it would have to be revealed, or they have no evidence.

        I'm not digging into the Uniform Commercial Code right now because, well, I'm just not doing that right now.

        But I'm -pretty sure- that using an intentionally-different definition of a unit is illegal, whether someone is selling bushels of corn, heads of lettuce, pounds of rice, or gigabytes of data.

        A bushel is a bushel, a head is a head, a pound is a pound, and a gigabyte is a gigabyte.

        Any significant variation from these standards (and TFS's variation is certainly significant) should be carefully scrutinized, and either explained, corrected, or penalized as appropriate.

        Plainly, if someone sells me 1000 pounds of beef and as far as I can measure I only receive 750 pounds then that someone has got 250 pounds worth of explaining to do. I cannot imagine any circumstance under which this would be different for data transport.

        • Re:Headers (Score:5, Interesting)

          by SkunkPussy (85271) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:29AM (#41978799) Journal

          Yeah but if someone gives you a bag containing 1000 pounds of (minced) beef, then you empty the beef out and some of the beef is stuck to the insides of the bag, and you throw the bag away you can't claim that you didn't originally receive 1000 pounds of beef.

          I'm not really defending AT&T, just providing perspective.

          That said they should definitely be completely transparent about how they measure bandwidth.

          • Re:Headers (Score:5, Informative)

            by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:12AM (#41978955) Homepage

            For a 20% to 30% discrepancy and claims of proprietary measuring system screams one thing and one thing only, random sampling and rounding up. Basically they are averaging out usage and rounding up in their favour. Basically going for lie, cheat and steal until challenged by a class action law suit forcing openness and accuracy.

          • Re:Headers (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Omega Hacker (6676) <omega.omegacs@net> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:30AM (#41979423)

            Yeah but if someone gives you a bag containing 1000 pounds of (minced) beef, then you empty the beef out and some of the beef is stuck to the insides of the bag, and you throw the bag away you can't claim that you didn't originally receive 1000 pounds of beef.

            I think you've got that wrong. If they're measuring DSL overhead, error correction, etc then the proper analogy would be:

            Somebody sells you a crate of apples they claim is 1000 pounds. What they neglected to tell you was that the crate itself weight 200 pounds, and they included that in their calculation. You only got 800lbs of actual apples.

            • Why hasn't anybody simply continued the beef analogy? It's actually a really good one:

              They sold you a 1000 lb side of beef, but by the time you butchered it into roasts and steaks you only had 700 lbs left because the rest was bone, skin, organs, gristle, trimmings, etc. (I've only looked into the subject briefly, but I believe this ~30% "overhead" for whole vs. butchered beef is pretty accurate.)

        • by srussia (884021)

          A bushel is a bushel, a head is a head, a pound is a pound, and a gigabyte is a gigabyte.

          And a dollar is a dol... Oops, my bad. I hear its definition is proprietary now. Like defining the foot as the current king's shoe size.

        • Re:Headers (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:11AM (#41978947) Journal

          Yes, but the question is, is the packaging included in the measure, especially if it is necessary packaging? Usually, the packaging isn't tared on weighted stuff, and volume stuff tends to measure the volume of the packaging (not the items shipped/bought/etc). So, there are options on measuring or not measuring the data overhead of the transport layers, that could affect price.

        • Re:Headers (Score:4, Interesting)

          by telchine (719345) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:18AM (#41978985)

          a gigabyte is a gigabyte.

          And a gigabyte can be either 1,000 MB or 1,024 MB ;-) obligitory xkcd link [xkcd.com]

          if someone sells me 1000 pounds of beef and as far as I can measure I only receive 750 pounds then that someone has got 250 pounds worth of explaining to do.

          Maybe you're just measuring the lean meat but your butcher is measuring the fat as well, or he's quoting gross weight and you're quoting net weight? Someone has suggested that AT&T may be measuring packet overhead and the article poster might not be.

          • Re:Headers (Score:5, Informative)

            by Entrope (68843) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:37AM (#41979067) Homepage

            Unless someone is sending an awful lot of really small packets, the 40+ bytes of TCP/IP headers per packet are not going to add 20-30% to the data that is being sent. For example, the "Simple IMIX" as defined on WIkipedia has 58% of packets being 40 bytes long (they are common because they represent data acknowledgments with no data going in the other direction), probably significantly underweights the number of 1500-byte MTUs, and still only has ~12% TCP/IP overhead. It would be grossly inappropriate for AT&T to include any packet overhead beyond TCP/IP because any lower level overhead is an artifact of AT&T's network design that is outside the control of, and opaque to, the end user.

            • Grossly inappropriate? Please. If you are selling bandwidth, you are going to measure it the way it comes out highest. Not because you are a thieving jerk, but because a) that's what your salespeople want and b) all of your competitors are doing it. Looking at the level 3 bandwidth usage is an error. It fails to account for - at minimum:
              - TCP headers
              - IP traffic that is hidden from the TCP level (retransmits, dupes, ICMP, etc.)
              - session setup and teardown (SYN - ACK - SYN/ACK)
              - Physical layer overhead (for

            • by swalve (1980968)
              All AT&T would have to do is not count the overhead and "charge" more for actual data. Instead of 250gb, you only get 225gb a month.

              But I can see how the 12% of TCP overhead can balloon up to 20% pretty easily. Just look at the layers that the payload data has to get wrapped into to traverse the network [wikipedia.org].

              You can say that you don't give a shit about *their* overhead, but they can just as rightfully say they don't care about what the data is on their network, only that it is there.
          • Re:Headers (Score:4, Interesting)

            by The Moof (859402) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @10:48AM (#41980489)

            Someone has suggested that AT&T may be measuring packet overhead and the article poster might not be.

            Overhead isn't 20-30%. Assuming a typical setup using mostly UDP/TCP/IP over a PPP connection, he's losing, at most, 48 bytes for every 1500. That's a whopping 3.2%.

            A more likely explanation is that someone's not measuring correctly (either the submitter or AT&T). It's feasible that AT&T is fudging the numbers. It's also feasible that the submitter isn't correctly monitoring traffic, such as only measure routed traffic and ignoring packets to the internet originating from the router, such as DNS, NTP, etc.

        • as for the unit, 1 kilo pounds equals 1000 pounds or 1024 pounds?

      • by DragonTHC (208439)

        charging you for dropped packets wouldn't really hold up in court. It's a best effort service and they legally couldn't charge you for what you never received. It's like pizza hut charging you for a pizza that their driver ate.

      • Re:Headers (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tgd (2822) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:01AM (#41979667)

        Is 20-30% A realistic estimation of TCP headers?

        If the numbers are correct I would say that a significant portion below the tcp/ip layer is being counted.

        How much retransmit/error correction is there in DSL? I personally wouldn't think that's valid to charge, but the argument could be made.

        As for for the original poster's question on law, I doubt there is any requirement, though if you challenge them in court, it would have to be revealed, or they have no evidence.

        20-30% isn't realistic, but headers plus a mismatch between a MiB and MB measure would get you a lot closer. The poster also didn't mention if all of the traffic was being totaled in his calculations (TCP/UDP/ICMP,etc).

        He's also likely measuring traffic going *though* his router, not traffic coming *to* his router. ATT is measuring at their end, so he's likely being billed for the constant port knocking and vulnerability scanning that is going on.

        Does it add up to 20-30%? Maybe no. Is ATT collectively a bunch of shitheads? Absolutely. Is it safe to assume because they're a bunch of shitheads that they're deliberately mis-billing? Also so. And "proprietary" could VERY easily be a corporate policy of "don't tell them anything if you're going to tell them something that is inaccurate". And I wouldn't trust a call center worker to properly explain the byte-for-byte measurement of network traffic. Far better to say "no, its proprietary" than to only explain 80% of it, get 10% wrong and have Slashdot or Reddit get their panties in a bunch because a near-minimum-wage call center worker mis-spoke.

      • by fgouget (925644)

        How much retransmit/error correction is there in DSL? I personally wouldn't think that's valid to charge, but the argument could be made.

        What costs money to an ISP is mostly traffic on interconnections with other networks because in most cases they have a lot more downloads than uploads (due to Youtube, etc), and thus end up paying by the byte / 95th percentile on Mbps. Another source of cost is when they have to add more capacity on their internal network connecting all their customers. However adding capacity is easy: no need to run more fiber, just put faster routers at both ends; tens of thousands of dollars instead of millions. Also, on

    • Re:Headers (Score:5, Informative)

      by Moblaster (521614) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:26AM (#41978591)
      You are looking at 2.5-5% overhead depending on TCP, UDP, frame size, etc. Not 20-30%. If you're feeling pungent, save up your bills for a year and file a small claims court action. Might cost you a few bucks and a couple hours. In exchange, ATT is 99% likely not so show up (therefore you win by default), or to call and offer you credit for cancellation. Should be worth a few hundred bucks to you.
      • by KarlH420 (532043)
        If you add ATM and AAL5 overhead that DSL has http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATM_Adaptation_Layer_5 [wikipedia.org] Then 20% sounds reasonable. 30% sounds reasonable if they are encapsulating traffic with PPPoE and a lot of your packets are not at the max MTU.
        • by KiloByte (825081)

          I can't see how one can reasonably include overhead that's suffered only on the first hop into the "traffic" measurement.

        • by Entrope (68843)

          Including ATM overhead, and probably even just the AAL5 overhead, would probably be grounds for a lawsuit because that overhead is an artifact of AT&T's network design that is invisible to the user and out of the user's control. What would you do if a shipper charged you by the pound to ship a box and then also billed you for the weight of a hand truck that they decided to send along for their own convenience in handling your package?

          • Re:Headers (Score:4, Interesting)

            by jamesh (87723) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:08AM (#41979259)

            Including ATM overhead, and probably even just the AAL5 overhead, would probably be grounds for a lawsuit because that overhead is an artifact of AT&T's network design that is invisible to the user and out of the user's control. What would you do if a shipper charged you by the pound to ship a box and then also billed you for the weight of a hand truck that they decided to send along for their own convenience in handling your package?

            I'd complain, and then the shipper would subtract the weight of the hand truck (20% of the weight of the box) and then mark up their per weight prices by 30% saying their had been an increase to the cost of doing business. Which is more-or-less what AT&T will end up doing if they need to adjust the way they calculate usage.

    • by Splab (574204)

      20-30% sounds more like rounding. For minutes for instance we count minutes started, with an average of 150 seconds per call, we get 30 seconds for each 180 seconds sold - granted this is only 16%, however, when doing data packets, rounding might very well end up around 20-30%.

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      The definition of Gigabyte could also be a factor. If you're measuring GiB and calling them GB, and they're measuring GB and calling them GB, that would account for 7.3% difference.

  • by TellarHK (159748) <tellarhk.hotmail@com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:22AM (#41978565) Homepage Journal

    Granted, contacting them may not actually help you in the short term, but bringing attention to this kind of nonsense is the best way there is to try and put a stop to it. Better yet, find someplace to publish a fully fledged and documented story with relevant emails and the like and THEN start getting some attention to it. This is something there certainly should be standards for, and the government needs a kick in the pants to realize that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Try the Consumer Protection Bureau. An aimless, foundering government office might get their attention.

  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:22AM (#41978573)
    Welcome to AT&T. Let me see if I can help you get to the right place.
    Just say what you are looking for.

    Terms of Service
    Did you say Enforce Archaic Rules? I thought so. Now tell me how I can help.
    Privacy
    I'm not sure if I heard that right, did you say Please Let the Government Have Access to All My Data?
    Bandwidth Usage
    I'm sorry, you are over the limit. Goodbye!
  • DSL ATM overhead (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:28AM (#41978601)

    DSL is based on ATM technology.
    And ATM uses 53 Byte cells to transfer data. 48 Byte for the actual data and 5 Byte overhead to indicate things such as the destination.
    Now when you want to transfer 50 Bytes of data, you need two atm-cells (vs 1 ethernet packet). This takes 106 Bytes of data on-the-wire.
    When one end is measuring the Ethernet side (50 Bytes + ethernet overhead) and the other is measuring the ATM side you will end up with very different numbers.

    • by KarlH420 (532043)
      DSL uses ATM AAL5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATM_Adaptation_Layer_5 [wikipedia.org] So you have ATM overhead, AAL5 overhead. So you have 40 bytes of payload, which then contain overhead from higher layers Then if your DSL is using PPPoE you have Ethernet overhead, and PPP overhead. Then you have IP and TCP or UDP overhead.
    • Re:DSL ATM overhead (Score:5, Informative)

      by AaronW (33736) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:03AM (#41978695) Homepage

      While they may be counting ATM cell usage I doubt it. DSL can use several different encapsulations over ATM. The most common one is a LLC/SNAP header in front of the Ethernet header which adds about 10 bytes per packet. If they're counting cells then the overhead might be higher since the last cell contains an 8-byte trailer containing the packet length and a CRC. Data is broken down into 48 byte cells and if there's less than 8 bytes left in the last cell then another cell is added. It could be even worse if they're using PPPoE which add an additional 8 bytes to each packet, but from my understanding PPPoE is thankfully dying if not dead.

      I wrote the data forwarding engine of a BRAS (broadband remote access server) a number of years ago that could terminate tens of thousands of DSL connections. They could be counting cell usage, AAL5 payload usage (ATM frame including LLC/SNAP headers), Ethernet frame usage or IP payload usage.

  • ATTbytes (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:28AM (#41978603)

    A web user once found himself in a fix;
    His ISP cried "too many bits!"
    For while a yottabyte has a septillion,
    An ATTbyte, only six.

  • by Coisiche (2000870) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:38AM (#41978633)

    This idea will spread if corporations can profit it from it. Expect to see "proprietary" metering coming to electricity, gas, water, fuel and anything else that can be metered.

    And of course they would treat customers like that. The primary constituency that a corporation is focused on is the shareholders and they are deemed far more important than customers, who come further down the priority list. Customers are still more important than the corporation's rank and file staff though, if that offers any solace.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:38AM (#41978635)

    Government inspectors ensure that gas pumps are properly calibrated. A gallon is a gallon.

    The grocer's scale has to meet government standards. A pound is a pound.

    A byte should be a byte.

    AT&T saying their standard is proprietary is like the butcher arguing that he should be able to put his thumb on the scale when he is weighing your hamburger.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      A byte was 6 bits on 12 or 24-bit systems, you insensitive clod!
      What you're looking for is an octet.

    • by snadrus (930168)
      For consumer safety, most states have a "department of weights and measures" for this purpose. They should be very interested in a contract dependent on an unverifiable scale.
  • by jovetoo (629494) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:04AM (#41978705) Journal

    I am no laywer and I am assuming the cap is part of your contract with them, I cannot see how they can keep their definition of bandwidth usage a secret. They are now basically claiming that you are restricted in your usage upto the cap but they refuse to tell you what the cap actually *means*. Without clear understanding of how usage is measured, the number of the cap is meaningless.

    So you are subject to provions in a contract that you are not allowed to know. It would surprise me very much if they could hold that up in court...

    • by Lando (9348)

      Unfortunately, this is the court of we are one of two internet providers in the area so if you want service you better just bend over, or something like that. I rue the day that AOL/Time Warner joined forces and started the slippery slide which resulted in most small ISPs getting forced out of business. It used to be that there were a dozen small isps to chose from in most major markets, now, since ISP services are considered unregulated, iirc, the bend over court seems to be the only one available and y

    • by langelgjm (860756) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:23AM (#41979347) Journal
      My guess is that phone personnel you speak with are just instructed to tell you that something is "proprietary" whenever they don't know the answer, don't want to look it up, or don't want to bother someone who does know.
  • My Usage Matches... (Score:4, Informative)

    by shipofgold (911683) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:04AM (#41978709)

    I had the same problem...once they started charging for exceeding the bandwidth caps I wrote a program to log usage.

    I have an old Fedora box with two ethernet cards doing the router work (everything to and from the house goes through this box) and use Etherape to track the usage. A cronjob once a minute makes sure Etherape is always running, and a kill -10 every minute gets it to dump the usage data in XML which I process into a CSV for analysis and charting.

    Surprisingly, their monthly usage figures have matched my full month calculations within 1%.

    What irritates me is that their monthly totals are not available on their WWW site for a full week after the end of the month, and their current month totals are also delayed a couple of days sometimes wildly inaccurate since they are missing days. Example is the November totals for my account seem to be currently missing 2-5 November, and they haven't posted 12,13 November yet. Hence they show lower usage than what I really used. If this were the end of the month, I might think I can squeeze that extra download in before the end of the month, but I am sure they would figure it out and charge for it.

    I hit this issue once when I breached the 150Gb cap with 6 hours remaining. They claim to sell you another 50Gb for $10, but of course that doesn't roll into the next month. That is where I would complain....if they are going to charge by the Gb, they need to accurately report usage during the month.

    AT&T just sent me a letter that they are switching me to U-verse with a 250Gb cap. They claim it will be the same price as DSL for the next year, but after that who knows....only other game in town is Comcast which cost even more.

  • by Kergan (780543) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:26AM (#41978791)

    There might all sorts of traffic related to your router that you're not seeing. AT&T is likely metering your connection on their end, both in and out, and consequentially finding more overhead than you do related to signaling, headers, error correction, and so forth. They might additionally be metering ATM traffic or such instead of IP traffic -- aka even more network data.

    Methinks the support guy saying it is "proprietary" is a candid way of saying he has no clue of what is being measured - let alone how. Also, it seems conceivable that AT&T might be using different techs depending on the location, and this may very well result in different connections being metered differently or at different levels. This is not to say that they shouldn't be transparent on how they meter you and what they meter exactly. I just doubt your contract entitles you to a full disclosure of how they run their network -- which is indeed proprietary and subject to change without notice.

    • by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:05AM (#41978915) Homepage Journal

      it kinda sucks if the customer is shafted for retransmissions done because of poor cabling by the isp.

    • While all of those are likely true, as others have been saying, that is simply the cost of doing business. The power company doesn't (directly) charge us for power lost during transmission. The fruit vendor doesn't charge us for fruit by weight while including the crate holding the fruit in the weight. The ISP shouldn't charge us for the overhead necessary to move our packets around. They've promised to deliver X amount to this person, but they're only delivering 0.7*X instead. The types of overhead you're

  • If you aren't going over the limit, don't sweat it. If you are going over the limit and have access to an ISP that offers a business or telecommuter plan with no limits, go ahead and make the switch.

    AT&T lost me as a 15+ year ISP customer inherited from Bellsouth because their overage charges at 6 Mbps put my monthly bill within $20 of a Comcast business plan at 22 Mbps and no cap.

  • A quick translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @06:42AM (#41978835) Journal

    After several calls, they finally told me they consider the methodology by which they calculate bandwidth usage to be proprietary.

    I just want to be sure that people realise that this doesn't actually mean they consider the methodology by which they calculate bandwidth usage to be proprietary. It's just a lie because the person being asked doesn't know the answer, doesn't know how to find out and feels that it's the sort of thing that will shut the submitter up.

    Just a warning to those who might actually believe them.

  • Weights and Measures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aurizon (122550) <bill.jackson@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:03AM (#41978909)

    If AT&T is dispensing a measured quantity of anything, and you feel you are being cheated, make a complaint to the state bureau that deals with this. Look on a gas station pump and you will be able to find them.

    I expect they may not be doing this now, but a written complaint and their desire to build their empire may well cause the heavy hand of officialdom to descend on AT&T.

    There are studies to do, standards to settle and matters to enforce and little stickers to put on all measuring points. AT&T will quake in their boots, run and hide?

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:23AM (#41979013) Journal

    In livestock, you can base the rate "on the hoof," or before slaughtering losses. You buy the steer on the hoof at the measured weight. The only difference is that it is clear, and most people buying livestock for slaughter are aware that a 40%+ loss between hoof and market is common. Still, when you sell to a consumer, what they receive in hand is the actual product weight.

    Another analogy would be lumber, which is sold in "nominal" sizes, but for which the actual size is smaller by (most often) 1/2" for framing sizes 2" and over, and 1/4" for thickness of hard or decorative woods and sizes under 2". An addition, some hardwood vendors will charge a 10% surcharge for straightening loss. If you buy a 2x6, you get a 1.5x5.5 board. Even if you wanted to buy a board foot of lumber (thickness (in) x width (ft) x length (ft)), you'll get a "nominal" board foot - the previously mentioned 2x6, 1 foot log, is a BF of lumber, though it's clearly less than 144 cu in of material. The sizes are based on sawmill losses (cutting and planing to size) from a piece of standing timber. Even a "full" or "rough sawn" piece of lumber is less than nominal by the thickness of the sawmill blade (kerf).

    The difference here is that it's secret. Which would follow the car insurance company model for what is required to drop you from their policy. You see, they will tell you that you have been dropped, but are not required to tell you what criteria they use to drop you. That's proprietary information / secret, and they won't tell you, though it's theoretically part of the contract you signed for the insurance. I suspect the same is true of US health insurance. Your ranking and whether you qualify for renewal is based on your condition and how much you cost, but I'd be willing to bet that data is never made public.

  • by dmini (1151177) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:37AM (#41979063)
    Pay half the bill and tell them you have a proprietary methodology by which you count money.
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:58AM (#41979195)
    I'm a long time AT&T customer. I'm going to explain to the OP what his situation really is. He can either accept the reality of it or go on his Don Quixote quest to be a one man army against AT&T.

    AT&T no longer wants to support their DSL service. So they do things to make it unpleasant for customers who can now get Uverse but have chosen not to do so. The DSL service drops constantly and I believe this is deliberately done to make people angry enough to abandon it. If you switch to Uverse, you will find that your completely unreliable DSL connection has been replaced magically with a completely reliable Uverse connection. Uverse also has much higher download limits. I've never even come close to using all of mine. The Uverse service is so much better and more reliable than their DSL offering that I would suggest you consider switching if you can. They are going to continue to make it painful for DSL customers who could switch but choose not to.
  • Mail them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Necroman (61604) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:49AM (#41979575)

    Why not mail the executive office? Stop being lazy and gather all the info on it that you can. Once you hit a wall or have sufficient data, publish your findings.

    If they are doing something weird, I bet you could take then small claims court over any overage charges you end up receiving.

  • by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:57AM (#41979635) Homepage
    They said it was proprietary to get you off the phone -- they straight up don't know the answer and were tired of talking to you. You have no way to measure the transport overhead, but they're clearly counting it. Life goes on.

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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