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AT&T Hardware Hacking The Almighty Buck The Internet

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling? 355

Posted by timothy
from the hey-these-guys-did-it-to-me-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AT&T has been overbilling my account based on overcounting DSL internet usage (they charge in 50 gigabyte units after the first 150). I have been using a Buffalo NFinity Airstation as a managed switch to count all traffic. As you may know, this device runs firmware based on dd-wrt and has hidden telnet functionality, so I am able to load a script to count traffic directly onto the device. I have an auto-scraper that collects the data and saves it on my computer's hard disk every two minutes while the computer is running. While it is not running, the 2 minute counters accumulate in RAM on the device. Power problems are not normally an issue here; and even when they are I can tell it has happened. The upshot of all this is I can measure the exact amount of download bandwidth and a guaranteed overestimate of upload bandwidth in bytes reliably. I have tested this by transferring known amounts of data and can account for every byte counted, including ethernet frame headers. AT&T's billing reporting reports usage by day only, lags two days, and uses some time basis other than midnight. It is also reading in my testing a fairly consistent 14% higher whenever the basis doesn't disturb the test by using too much bandwidth too close to midnight.

AT&T has already refused to attempt to fix the billing meter, and asserts they have tested it and found it correct. Yet they refuse to provide a realtime readout of the counter that would make independent testing trivial. I've been through the agencies (CPUC, FCC, and Weights & Measures) and can't find one that is interested, AT&T will not provide any means for reasonable independent testing of the meter. It is my understanding that if there is a meter and its calibration cannot be checked, there is a violation of the law, yet I can't find an agency that can even accept such a claim (I'm not getting "your claim is meritless", but "we don't handle that"). If indeed they are not overbilling, my claim of no way to verify the meter still stands. My options are running thin here. So that my account can be identified by someone who recognizes the case: 7a6c74964fafd56c61e06abf6c820845cbcd4fc0 (bit commitment).
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

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  • DSL overhead (Score:5, Informative)

    by Omega Hacker (6676) <omega@nOSpAM.omegacs.net> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:42PM (#47769679)
    http://pflog.net/dsl_overhead/

    Looks like they're counting ATM frames, not your IP traffic.
  • Re:maybe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dr.Zong (584494) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:46PM (#47769729) Journal
    I was going to say, ATM/PPPoE encapsulation is approximately 15% of total traffic. Bell Canada and all providers do that up here. I thought everyone knew this, or were able to google it especially if they are able to upload something like DDWRT to their router. Perhaps I had too much faith.
  • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:52PM (#47769773)

    Trivially easy to do, I've ditched AT&T as a result of being billed for going over that cap. But I have that option, not everyone does.

    I believe my wife watched standard def movies, and I downloaded wildstar and one update during that month. That plus FW updates and normal internet usage was enough to go over. I can't imagine what would happen if we were actually at home enough to really use our internet connection.

  • by Narcocide (102829) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @06:01PM (#47769845) Homepage

    Its a limit really easy to hit if you do 3 or more of the following things:

    1) run Steam on multiple systems and own lots of games that are all currently installed, and keep them constantly updated
    2) run Linux distros such as Debian Unstable (sid) on multiple systems and don't use a apt-cacher type proxy, but keep them constantly updated
    3) frequently use Netflix streaming
    4) frequently use DirecTV OnDemand services
    5) own any relatively recent gaming console (ps3, ps4, wii-u, xbox360, xboxone) and own a lot of games and keep it constantly updated
    6) listen to streaming music all day long
    7) have more than one recent Blizzard game installed (Diablo III, Starcraft II, World of Warcraft) and keep them constantly updated, especially around expansion release times
    8) have a home office

  • Re:maybe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tuidjy (321055) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @06:31PM (#47770101)

    This is exactly what's going on. The company I work for had this problem, at one of our warehouses (not AT&T, different provider, probably subletting from someone).

    The warehouse manager threatened his local rep with a law suit, they laughed at him. The company lawyer mentioned a class action law suit, they fixed our billing the same month.

    When we had to renew, the new contract spelled out that they will bill us for the 'resulting' traffic. It got signed without anyone from my department getting asked, but the funny thing is, months later, they are still billing us the old way i.e. without the overhead.

    As for the original poster - check your contract. If you have not agreed to pay for their internal overhead, you will get amazing results if you remind them that they are overcharging thousands of customers, and that they can be on the hook for millions, when a lawyer agrees to take the case for a percentage. If you have agreed to pay for the overhead... I doubt there is much you can do.

    By the way, I am an IT director ,not a lawyer, so don't go blindly follow my advice, either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @06:53PM (#47770263)

    Not it isn't. 2x4 is by standard 3.5 inches. 2x4 nowhere claims that it's 2 inches by 4 inches, it's just a name, but if you look up the size, it's required to be I think 3.5x1.75 or somewhere around there. 12 ounce drinks had better have at least 12 ounces in them. If it isn't, the manufaturer is commiting fraud and can be sued. If you go to a gas station, if their pump short changes you more than 1%, that's illegal. If you claim to sell a certain amount, you have to be within a tolerance or you have to be in the customers favor, to not do that is illegal. Source, my brother calibrates petral pumps (gasoline, kerosine, propane, etc) for a living and talks about how the distributors are always trying to get him to put it in their favor, and how he threatens to report them to the state and have them shutdown if they so much as infer such a thing again.

  • by Forever Wondering (2506940) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @07:00PM (#47770303)

    sonic.net has no datacaps and no "artificial" speed limits. [Note: I'm not affiliated with them--just a very happy customer since I switched in March].

    Of course, I'm assuming that when you said "CPUC" that means California PUC. If so, go to http://www.sonic.net/ [sonic.net] and enter your AT&T landline number. They will tell you how many feet you are from the sonic CO. Then, go to http://www.dslreports.com/foru... [dslreports.com] to see what your likely speed with sonic will be.

    I'm 5000 feet to the sonic CO, so I got 1.3 megabytes/second [2x AT&T's elite service]. sonic is also cheaper. And, tech support couldn't be more pleasant or helpful.

    In fact, when you post a tech question to a sonic tech forum, you might just get a response from Dane [Jasper]--the sonic.net CEO

  • Re:maybe (Score:5, Informative)

    by mauriceh (3721) <<maurice> <at> <harddata.com>> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @07:10PM (#47770387) Homepage

    In Alberta Nucleus uses PPOE
    As I know them pretty well I just called a guy I know there to ask, and he tells me they adjust their metered bandwidth to allow for the "wastage" due to PPOE encapsulation.
    In other words, they do not charge us for it.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @07:49PM (#47770635) Journal

    My 2x4 lumber is actually 3.5" wide.

    Only if it has already been dried and dressed, it comes off the greenchain at the sawmill as 2X4 (to within 1/16th of an inch), as it dries the dimensions change, dressing the timber takes an 1/8th of an inch off each side. If a lumber yard attempted to sell you undressed timber as 2X4 that was actually 3.75 X 1.75 then the weights and measures people would definitely be interested. Here in Oz dressed timber is now advertised with real dimensions not it's undressed dimensions The practice goes way back to the days when most buildings used undressed timber for structural purposes. These days carpenters don't normally build frames on site, it's all prefab frames and roofs that just bolt together, for that technique to work it needs the more consistent dimensions of dressed timber.

    Nobody is scamming you out of useful timber, the industry terminology is well defined and is not hidden from the customer. The point of TFA is that comcast's network metering methods are hidden from customer scrutiny and nobody at weights and measures seems to give a damn.

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