How far can AT&T’s new cap really take you?

Do you know how much bandwidth you’re using? To be honest, I didn’t really know for certain, so I decided to get a better idea. Since I live alone, I only needed to measure the bandwidth my MacBook Pro’s using, vs. what my router thinks it’s using. Luckily, there’s an easy to use Mac OS X application called SurplusMeter that keeps track of your bandwidth usage as you’re using it, so I installed that on my laptop.

At 11:40am, I took the following screenshot several minutes after rebooting to clear the meter. All that’s open at the moment is Adium (IM client), Safari with 12 tabs, Terminal and iTunes. I disabled Time Machine for this test because Time Machine traffic gets counted by this application:

After rebooting my laptop

At 12:50pm, after one TV episode in standard definition on Netflix (~45 minutes) and a bit of Web browsing:

After one episode on Netflix

I took this screenshot 5:10pm, after 6 Netflix episodes of ~45 minutes each in standard definition plus some light Web surfing and IRC usage. This works out to 4.5 hours, or a bit more than the average of 28 hours per week that Americans spend watching TV:

After six episodes on Netflix

At 3.8GB per day and 31 days at most in a month, this works out to ~118GB for the month. On regular AT&T DSL, I would have gotten at least one warning from AT&T during the month, and come close to getting one on U-Verse. If I had housemates, used the Web extensively, or spent that time watching HD content instead of standard def content, I would be subject to AT&T’s overage fees. It sounds even more ridiculous when you take into account the fact that AT&T won’t be counting U-Verse TV as part of the cap. This is why it’s so important to do your part to let AT&T know how much of a bad idea its plan actually is and to make our legislators and regulators ensure fair, equal competition in the Internet space.

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