Because data cap overage fees, early termination fees and administrative fees apparently aren’t enough, AT&T has patented yet another creative way to squeeze more money from its customers every month. TorrentFreak has found a recently published AT&T patent that details a system aimed at the “prevention of bandwidth abuse of a communications system” that singles out certain types of traffic as potentially “abusive” bandwidth-intensive activities.
“When a user communicates over a channel, the type of communication is checked to determine if it is of a type that will use an excessive amount of bandwidth,” the patent states. “The user is provided an initial number of credits. As the user consumes the credits, the data being downloaded is checked to determine if it is permissible or non-permissible. Non-permissible data includes file-sharing files and movie downloads if user subscription does not permit such activity.”
And what happens when a user is found to be consuming too much “non-permissible” data? You guessed it: AT&T says that “various restriction policies also can be applied, such as levying additional fees and/or terminating the user’s access to the channel.”
To be clear, just because AT&T has patented a concept that doesn’t mean that it’s going to implement it anytime soon. If the carrier were to try to implement such a system, however, it would be instantly controversial since it would no longer be just setting limits on how much data its customers can use but singling out specific kinds of data that it doesn’t want them to use. Or put another way, this system looks like a surefire way to move the net neutrality debate back onto the front burner.