AT&T patent points to consumer ‘bandwidth abuse’, restricting content access

February 3, 2014
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A patent filed by AT&T back in September of 2013 has been found, and it’s got some eyebrow-raising features. Recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), AT&T is asking for what amounts to ‘freemium’ browsing. Issuing credits as you use data, the patent seems to coincide with other recent revelations about how AT&T envisions you using your movie device to browse.


The patent, labelled "Prevention Of Bandwidth Abuse Of A Communications System”, seems to want throttling to be more than a buzzword. The carrier wants to issue credits for “permissible content”, and reward you with more credits when you run low -- but only for the content AT&T deems 'permissable'. Of course, this begs the question of what AT&T deems as ‘permissible’, but we may already know that.

Recently, AT&T made a push to allow some data to be consumed free. By accessing United Healthcare’s website, AT&T customers would not have the usage count against their plan. Essentially, it’s subsidized data, as United Health Care is likely paying AT&T for the gentle traffic push to their site.

AT&T said in the patent that the scope was to limit users “from consuming an excessive amount of channel bandwidth by restricting use of the channel in accordance with the type of data being downloaded to the user”. Interestingly, the patent notes HSDPA and HSUPA — not LTE — as the weapon of choice. That could indicate a pay-as-you-go scheme for lower-end devices, but it’s still suspect.

Though AT&T doesn’t seem ready to implement this type of action at any point in the foreseeable future, it’s definitely alarming. It raises questions of both carrier responsibilities to customers, as well as net neutrality concerns. Until made actionable, it’s not worth outrage, but definitely makes us question AT&T’s direction.

VIA: Fierce Wireless


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  • Richard Yarrell

    Plain and simple At&t sucks monkey balls always have.

  • NrikeCalderon

    AT&T’s direction = DOWN.