A new patent filed by AT&T Mobility in September 2013 and published this month hopes to keep customers from "abusing a telecommunications system" by consuming too much bandwidth, according to a report on TorrentFreak. The ultimate goal of such a patent is to apparently keep users from using certain services within the confines of packages they subscribe to. The patent, "Prevention Of Bandwidth Abuse Of A Communications System," would penalize users for the transfer of certain kinds of data linked to "excessive" consumption.
"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 reads.
The system awards subscribers credits and subtracts them when their data traffic is deemed to have been consumed in a bandwidth-hungry fashion.
"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," the patent application reads. If the data is permissible, the user is provided another allotment of credits equal to the initial allotment. If the data is non-permissible, the user is provided an allotment of credits less than the initial allotment."
If the user runs out of credits because of whatever the company deems as an "unacceptable use" of bandwidth, then the system could require the customer to pay more money, be subject to sanctions that affect his or her ability to communicate (such as by blocking certain services such as streaming video), or be incentivized to maintain preferred consumption habits.
“Various restriction policies also can be applied, such as levying additional fees and/or terminating the user’s access to the channel. Also, incentives can be provided to entice the user [to] curb the misuse,” the patent filed by AT&T Mobility adds.
Earlier this month a federal appeals court in Washington struck down part of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order (also known as net neutrality rules). Shortly after AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson offered reassurances that his company was committed to an open Internet, but this latest patent filing certainly sounds like AT&T does not want to treat all traffic equally. Most likely this patent would be used to target services like Torrents and streaming of certain services (legal or otherwise) – services that both ISPs and rights holders believe are extra naughty activities.