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Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Today I’m going to talk about a matter that is of specific importance to anyone who uses AT&T’s Internet service. Starting next month, AT&T will implement a monthly usage cap for all subscribers.

For normal DSL users the cap will be 150 GBs a month, and for U-Verse users the cap will be 250 GBs a month. If a user goes over that cap, the charge will be ten dollars for every 50 GB over their limit.

For those who don’t know, a “GB” is short for a gigabyte, which is a unit of measurement for computer data. In terms of paper, one gigabyte is a great deal of books. The problem is that non-text data can take up much more memory.

For example, using your computer to watch a two hour movie online would mean around two GBs used. When you only have 150 in a month, that might be hard to spare.

So what does this mean for you? To be honest, if you have to ask that question then it probably won’t have any immediate effects on you or your Internet bill.

The average user doesn’t come close to the 150 GB monthly cap. So if you’re the kind of person who only uses the Internet to check your email and occasionally check a news site or Facebook, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

The main people who will be affected by this are those who use the Internet heavily, and especially those who make constant use of file sharing programs like BitTorrent. But anyone who uses online streaming services like Netflix also might have something to worry about. If you make regular use of any service which makes use of frequent uploads or downloads (something like movie streaming or cloud computing), make sure that you check your bill to see if you are in danger of hitting or exceeding the cap.

A word of caution to those who have kids on the Internet, the meter for Internet usage will take into account the entire household. Just because you hardly ever go online doesn’t mean your children don’t. Check your bill when AT&T starts this policy in May and make sure that you don’t find any unexpected surprises.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

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