AT&T patent controls bandwidth usage

US operator AT&T has filed a patent for a technology designed to prevent its customers from consuming “an excessive amount of channel bandwidth”.

The patent describes a credit system, whereby a customer is provided an initial number of credits and as they consume the credits, the data that they download is verified to determine if it is permissible or non-permissible data, according to their package. AT&T stated in the patent filing that non-permissible data could include file-sharing and movie downloads, if the user’s subscription plan does not permit such activity.

“If the data is permissible, the user is provided another allotment of credits equal to the initial allotment,” the patent explains. “If the data is non-permissible, the user is provided an allotment of credits less than the initial allotment.”

In the event of a consumer using all their credits, they would be required to pay more money, be subject to sanctions such as the blocking of certain traffic types, or be incentivised to maintain “preferred consumption” habits.

The patent was filed in September last year but details of it were published this month. Companies often file patents for inventions that they opt never to implement. However, after rival Verizon’s victory in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month, in principle, domestic ISPs could legally throttle content streamed to customers, and the scenario AT&T’s patent conveys seems more likely to become a reality.

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