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

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the patented-arithmetic dept.

AT&T 562

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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562 comments

Headers (2, Insightful)

DevTechb (2772901) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978537)

Most likely you don't calculate TCP headers while AT&T rightfully does. That's why you get less bandwidth use.

Re:Headers (4, Informative)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978577)

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 (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year and a half ago | (#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:Headers (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978901)

They can charge for whatever they want to.

Re:Headers (5, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978931)

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 (-1, Flamebait)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979045)

Because its their network. You cant even cry monopoly, there is competition.

Dont stroll into their network, accept their terms, and then start up about how you want their service to comply with your vision; the world doesnt work that way.

Re:Headers (5, Informative)

BeadyEl (1656149) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979073)

The availability of competing providers varies by market. There are parts of the US with NO broadband available at all, and others where there is only one carrier. Also, the whole issue here seems to be that the "terms" he accepted withheld relevant information - and that IS grounds for legal appeal.

Re:Headers (5, Insightful)

Kincaidia (927521) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979075)

That's not accurate. They are selling you a service by a standard measure, and that should be an absolute measurement. When you buy gasoline, you are buying a fairly exact amount, and the pumps are regularly measured to ensure they're providing the stated amount. If the petrol station started using their own "proprietary" measurements? GTFOOT.

Re:Headers (4, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979077)

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.

Re:Headers (4, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978727)

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 (4, Interesting)

SkunkPussy (85271) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978799)

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 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978911)

I think that's one analogy that could be used, the other possibility is analogy #2:

Someone sells you a bag that they say is 1000 pounds of minced beef, and when you weight it it comes out to 700 pounds, but they say they meant 1000 pounds as defined by them.

To answer the OP question, the real threat that you have is to contact a lawyer that specializes in consumer protection class action suits. FTC is great and all, but if you really want to push it, get your own lawyer. This kind of case could definitely be a real money maker to a lawyer (meaning that they would work their tail off on it.)

Just my 2c

Re:Headers (1)

mlauzon (818714) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978917)

adolf didn't say anything about 'minced beef', so I don't know where you got that idea from. Beef comes in many different cuts!

Re:Headers (4, Informative)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978955)

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 (2)

srussia (884021) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978907)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41979025)

Yes, if only that length had been standardized at some point in recent history...

We get it, metric is better. I'm not disagreeing, but do you REALLY need to veer things off course in this discussion to feel superior? Does it REALLY matter if your epeen is a yard or a meter?

Re:Headers (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978947)

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 (3, Interesting)

telchine (719345) | about a year and a half ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

Entrope (68843) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979067)

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.

Re:Headers (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979049)

and a gigabyte is a gigabyte.

Maybe not the best example to back your claim up, since when buying parts "a gigabyte" is most certainly not "a gigabyte"-- hence the disclaimers on HDD boxes about sizes.

Re:Headers (2)

DragonTHC (208439) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978951)

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 (5, Informative)

Moblaster (521614) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Headers (2)

KarlH420 (532043) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978693)

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.

Re:Headers (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978771)

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

Re:Headers (5, Insightful)

Xenx (2211586) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978851)

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

It's easier to see if you're getting paid more for it.

Re:Headers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978777)

That's a hassle, but potentially worth it. What I'd be more interested in is pointing out to the judge that I tried to reconcile my numbers with AT&T, and asked them for their methodology, but that they claimed it was proprietary. Should make for some interesting fireworks. I mean, what the hell kind of contract doesn't specify the method by which you're being billed? Is that even legal?

Re:Headers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978599)

there is no reason to believe Tomato is counting headers incorrectly.

Re:Headers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978913)

there is no reason to believe Tomato is counting headers incorrectly.

Sure there is... It was written by someone with half a brain. Now AT&T on the other hand has a long history of falsely charging consumers.

Counting headers and overhead should also be illegal and not count. AT&T isn't the post office, padding and other superfluous headers and control information is out of the consumers control and completely up to the carrier. Technically they could have 12394% overhead on the data you send.

Re:Headers (1)

Splab (574204) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978675)

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%.

Re:Headers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978677)

In my experiencce, that counts for about 10% overhead, not 20-30%

Re:Headers (1)

beelsebob (529313) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978687)

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.

1k increments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978541)

every request sent is probably counted in 1k blocks. its always going to be out.
 

Re:1k increments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978575)

all the more reason to use adblock and noscript to cut down on the noise on each page.

Re:1k increments (0)

Soluzar (1957050) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978703)

When you use adblock and noscript, the full page including all scripts and adverts still arrives at your browser. The unwanted content is stripped out before you see it, but you're still paying for it on your usage allowance.

Re:1k increments (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978793)

That is incorrect. Ablock specifically works by blacklisting URL patterns from being requested. I don't know exactly how noscript works, but it's surely going to stop a script from requesting other scripts or ads.

Re:1k increments (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978797)

Completely wrong.

Both adblock and noscript prevent the browser from fetching unwanted content.

Re:1k increments (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978829)

No, the pictures and linked crap and not requested and doesn't get sent to you. Using Adblock and Noscript is the only way to browse the web over a dial-up modem. If you were correct, then browsing with a modem would be impossible.

Re:1k increments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978597)

So we're talking about mass accumulations of rounding errors? Why stop at 1 KB? Is there some limit stopping them from using larger blocks in their calculations?

Yes! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978543)

Yes, go for it!

Contact the state and FCC? Hell yes. (4, Insightful)

TellarHK (159748) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978565)

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.

Re:Contact the state and FCC? Hell yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978639)

I agree. We can't let the people that are making money from our bandwidth usage pick how they will measure it. This stuff really needs to be defined in a standard that anyone can view a copy of. If we allow those making money form our bandwidth usage to design the algorithms involved, they can and will add fudge values to ensure they make as much money as possible from the system.

Re:Contact the state and FCC? Hell yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978801)

You could start a petition on www.change.org telling at&t to divulge their formula. That might get it started.

Change.org - what a strange site! (1, Offtopic)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978859)

What an absolutely strange site. The site claims more than 100,000,000 signatures. So I figure I'll see what kinds of petitions attract this kind of attention. Select "browse petitions", then select "popular", finally select "all time".

- Top of the list: "Pay UN Interns a Fair Wage" with 2439 signatures.

- Second in the list: "Remove 2014 Ice Hockey...from Belarus" with 1334 signatures.

- Not far down the list, number 6 has only 33 signatures.

Something, somewhere does not compute...

Re:Change.org - what a strange site! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41979041)

perhaps they've used AT&T's method for counting?

Scare the hell out of them... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978567)

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

FTC and FCC (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978569)

I'd sick the FTC and the FCC on them... If they try and bill you for it, I'd take them to small claims court. The judge isn't going to like their answer, I bet. You need to account for all bytes in and ouf, in all packets. Or, you could tell them you are going to dump them for comcast, or sonic or who ever can complete against them.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978571)

They are billing you, they must disclose the exact nature of what you are being billed for. I seem to remember some other telco trying this and a court told them off for it.

I see what you did there (5, Funny)

alphatel (1450715) | about a year and a half ago | (#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!

In any other industry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978581)

...this would most likely not be legal. What if the gasoline pumps had a "proprietary" method for billing you? How can their method be anything more than the aggregate of packets sent and received? Are they listening in on what you're doing, ie if you set on web page for too long they count it as "data usage"? Or are they counting things like VoIP as double data. 1 MB of talk time equals 2 MB of web browsing. I just do not get this.

Take them to court (0)

TyFoN (12980) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978585)

If you can prove that you have used substantially less than they claim and cut you off.
As a side note: why the hell would anyone go with a plan with data caps?
A 100 mbit fiber connection with no caps at all is around $100 a month here, if i drop to 60 mbit it costs $50. I think there are about 10 providers in this area competing with DSL, cable and fiber.

Re:Take them to court (2, Insightful)

Ultra64 (318705) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978609)

"A 100 mbit fiber connection with no caps at all is around $100 a month here"

The keyword being "here".

"I think there are about 10 providers in this area competing with DSL, cable and fiber."

I have one cable provider in my area, that's it.

Re:Take them to court (1)

TyFoN (12980) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978719)

Only one provider must suck big time. But you would think that there would be room for at least two competing against each other.
Unless they cooperate on price :)

Re:Take them to court (2)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978815)

Only one provider must suck big time. But you would think that there would be room for at least two competing against each other.
Unless they cooperate on price :)

It's funny, but 6 years ago I envied the US for their broadband speeds and pricing. 3 years ago, my canadian broadband surpassed the US in terms of pricing, and speed. At my place down in Florida in Pasco Co., I have the choice of...cable(brighthouse), or dial up. Their offering is 10/1 service@51/mo. I wouldn't say that an aircard or tethering is an option considering both are cost prohibitive even at $51/mo. Up here in Canadaland I now pay $42/mo for 25/1, which will be getting bumped to 50/10 with no cap.

Things are rather broken down in the US in terms of competition right now. And it has to do with over-regulation and crony capitalism protecting incumbents. Something we're very familiar with up here in Canada.

Re:Take them to court (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978819)

"Only one provider must suck big time"

Yup. My max speed is 300KB/s, there is no faster speed available.

Re:Take them to court (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978845)

something like75% of people have one or two ISP available to them.

usually DSL and Cable. I wish i could get fiber in my new home but I can't and won't be able to for another 15 years minimum.

no competition means no price breaks

DSL ATM overhead (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:DSL ATM overhead (4, Informative)

AaronW (33736) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978695)

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.

Re:DSL ATM overhead (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978929)

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.

DSL is not based on ATM technology, but can use it.

Sincerely,

Anonymous Coward who works for a major telecommunications company

ATTbytes (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Vote with your feet. (0)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978605)

Change to another provider.

Re:Vote with your feet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978651)

Change to another provider.

That might prove rather difficult for the lone voice to run a monopoly out of town, which would likely have to be voted on first.

Thinking you were the first to try is naive at best when local politicians can't even shake hands anymore without causing a grease fire hazard.

Another - run away, fast (1)

franknagy (56133) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978623)

My solution was to leave AT&T for Clear.
This was primarily due to my DSL speed dropping way, way below the
1.5 MBits (which I NEVER got near) I was paying for.
I was also concerned by the, at the time, looming usage limits.

Where is Judge Green when we need him?

Re:Another - run away, fast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978775)

Judge Green got us into this mess by breaking up the last telecommunications network that any of us have known that actually worked.

That said, I can not imagine he intended to replace a well managed, regulated monopoly with essentially an unregulated oligopoly.

(Full disclosure - I worked for the Bell System and the old AT&T. Thankfully, I do not work for the new AT&T.)

New exploit for corporations (3, Interesting)

Coisiche (2000870) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

You have a right to accurate measurement (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:You have a right to accurate measurement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978667)

A gallon is a gallon.

If a gallon is a gallon and there are always 8 pints in any gallon, how come pints in your country are smaller than in mine?

Think ATT is bad move north! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978637)

If you think ATT is the only arrogant company that tends to abuse its position as a service provider in a protected market then just try moving north to Canada and you will see what the telcos are really capable of when they essentially run the body which governs them!

The data rates south of the border are 30-40% more competitive and the monthly data plan allotments up here border upon the ridiculous.
There is an investigation currently going on up here into alleged collusion between Bell, Telus and Rogers. It will go no where because we they essentially are in a position to put the thumbscrews on the regulators through their friends in the Conservative party in Ottawa. It was a small news item last month that has very quickly dried up and I seriously doubt the cartel will be held to task for what they are doing.

Re:Think ATT is bad move north! (1)

mrclisdue (1321513) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978847)

For starters, go with a reseller. Yes, the backbone is still those three evil bastards, but you'll save money and be uncapped. As for nasty shit like throttling and DPI, I haven't noticed anything (I'm with Netfox. I used Teksavvy, as well.)

cheers,

Liars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978653)

I am going to take a stab in the dark... based on my experiences with ATT... and say the person who told you this is a liar. This sounds like a class action suit in the making.

Re:Liars (4, Insightful)

neokushan (932374) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978691)

I'm going to go with this and assume that when the guy said "proprietary" he actually meant "I don't know and nobody I can talk to knows".

Re:Liars (3, Insightful)

shipofgold (911683) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978741)

I will agree with this....having dealt with AT&T as a vendor, I would say their customer service people probably have no idea who in the company might be able to answer the question, so it easier to just punt and give the "proprietary" answer.

Furthermore, I would guess they know which market the caller is coming from, and whether they are the only provider in the area. If they know you can't vote with your feet, they are much less inclined to make you happy.

nothing sus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978685)

it sounds very telstra like IMHO

whats that, class action you say?

Contracts cannot be secret? (5, Informative)

jovetoo (629494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978705)

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...

Re:Contracts cannot be secret? (1)

Lando (9348) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978857)

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 yes these results hold up in that court very well.

It's enough to make me want to move to Kansas City.

And if you've signed away your court rights? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979035)

[Agent]Hard to go to court if you've already contractually agreed to binding arbitration. [/Agent]

If ATT isn't limiting the actual bytes but rather "excessive usage" as a general, non-numeric term, then they don't have to show you anything. They tell you when you've consumed too much, and you reduce or they drop you. It's very one sided. But then, so are nearly all contracts where there is little or no effective competition.

My Usage Matches... (4, Informative)

shipofgold (911683) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Counting failed packets ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978713)

Could be like the Wireless accounting where they count packets they send not the ones you receive. If you have crappy connection you pay for the re-trys. This should also apply to your packets in the other direction but downlink traffic is smaller than the other direction.

TCP resends data (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978749)

Depending on how you measured your bandwidth locally, you might have measured the data sent, not the packets sent. The TCP achieves reliability by sending acknowledgement packets and resending packets when they are lost (which happens quite frequently on the Internet--that's how routers control congestion). So a single packet might easily be resent multiple times, causing AT&T to measure the bytes that went across their network (since that's what costs them) and not the effective amount of communication that you received.

Of course, the cost and quality of bandwidth in the USA is ridiculous compared to other countries, and you're being robbed blind no matter what.

Network overhead, signaling, error correction (4, Interesting)

Kergan (780543) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Network overhead, signaling, error correction (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978915)

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

Save yourself the grief... (1)

bwcbwc (601780) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978831)

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.

Re:Save yourself the grief... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978937)

Just for my information - Can you share your total monthly payment to Comcast and the type of service you are getting?

A quick translation (3, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978835)

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.

Re:A quick translation (1)

Nesa2 (1142511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978935)

Exactly. No person on the phone at telco will know exactly how a piece of software like this was developed. You have to dig deep down hierarchy that has no customer interactions by far to get someone that possibly has an idea. Likely a brush off. Either that, or person knows formula is: x*1.3=usage ; where x is real usage. He is more likely to be onto something though because 30% extra bandwidth charge is nice profit for users that new to internet scene, and nice savings on selling you 100GB package and letting you only use 70GB.

Re:A quick translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41979065)

Yup.

I ran into the same kind of thing trying to get ATT to tell me why I was worthy of throttling on my "unlimited" iPhone data plan - they were utterly sure that I was in the top 5% for my area, but god forbid they tell me how many users are in the pool, what their bandwidth usage is like, how much capacity they have in the area....basically anything that might suggest that the rep knows how to do anything but read a script, or that they're only throttling me to be greedy assholes.

No class action (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978861)

That's in your contract. Get lawyer to make a form.
Get millions of people to sue simultaneously.

Switch providers, do it again.

FTC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978867)

You might also contact the FTC which deals in false advertising.

Usage Based Billing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41978887)

I believe there is a court case involving AVIS where they had to refund a lot of money because they could not prove that their odometers were always correct and they could not show that they had made an effort to make sure they were correct. I worked for a value added network in the 80s and they went through a lot of trouble to make sure that they could document and justify their usage based billing. AT&T is out on a limb here. Of course it would take lawyers and time to saw the limb off. At the end, you will have a more accurate bill.

Weights and Measures (4, Interesting)

aurizon (122550) | about a year and a half ago | (#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?

ATM, TCP/IP overhead? (1)

nomaddamon (1783058) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978963)

ATM cells in your DSL line have ~10% overhead
each TCP/IP packet has ~2.5% overhead in best case
TCP/IP handhakes(and resets) might add another 2-3%

So 20% overhead in data transfered vs useful data is actually realistic over DSL line

Secret is bad, but overselling is common (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979013)

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.

Overheads and capacity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41979015)

If you are measuring your usage based on byte counters on interfaces, this *should* accurately reflect how they measure it, assuming they measure your byte usage at their BNGs, thus shouldn't include PPP encapsulation, Ethernet (or ATM cells), etc. It could, however, be possible they are being cheeky and measuring ATM cells, which will bite (or should that be byte?) you. ATM cells are 64bytes. So if your IP packet is 40 bytes (eg, an ACK), you are "wasting" 24 bytes, and potentially being charged for. That said, it's unusual to sell/charge DSL on ATM circuit usage.

More likely I suspect is the following: Your PPP session is terminated (and accounted) at a BNG. The link between you and that BNG is not infinite in capacity, and is very likely to be smaller than the BNG to the rest of the world. So if you have, say, 20Mbps of packets flying at you via the net, the BNG will count them as they fly through it, and down the Backhaul, eventually reaching your nice 15Mbps DSL link. There is literally nowhere for the extra 5Mbps to go, so it gets dropped.

Regular TCP handles this nicely and has back off algorithms in place, so your link is saturated, but not totally. It's not perfect, but it mostly works, and servers dont send you much more than the narrowest part of the pipe.

Torrenting, being UDP based, blows that out of the water. It's congestion control is marginal at best.

So, want to see if that's what's going on. Idle your link for 24hours, and during that time transfer files via http only, and try NOT to download files from fast sites.

Now take your measurement of your bytes used, and compare theirs. If you are roughly the same, then that explains it.

Interestingly.., even if it is that, the question remains, can the ISP bill you for data it *attempts* to send you, rather than data that actually makes it down the pipe? And that leads to unwanted data. If you get DoS'd, you didn't ask for that data, should you be billed for it?

Proprietary methodology of counting money? (5, Funny)

dmini (1151177) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979063)

Pay half the bill and tell them you have a proprietary methodology by which you count money.

File an FCC Complaint (1)

emmjayell (780191) | about a year and a half ago | (#41979083)

If you live in the US (the posting implies that you do) and you can't resolve the issue with AT&T, then I would file a FCC Complaint.

You can even file the complaint online.

That said, 20%, is not a huge difference - is it worth fighting over?

Remember when people used to be concerned that when buying a 10 Gig hard drive, it wasn't really 10 Gigabytes?

(I hope you weren't expecting me to make your decision for you.)

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