AT&T has published a patent that would charge customers not only on how much they use the internet, but how they use it, period. Spin and the Huffington Post report that Patent US20140010082 A1, "Prevention of Bandwidth Abuse of a Communications System" -- which was initially introduced in 2006, four years before the 2010 Open Internet Act prevented broadband providers from discriminating against online content -- could potentially penalize consumers for visiting high-bandwidth sites like Netflix instead of using the internet to check their email, for example.  

"A user of a communications network is prevented from consuming an excessive amount of channel bandwidth by restricting use of the channel in accordance with the type of data being downloaded to the user," the patent reads. AT&T would exercise such control over internet usage by issuing users with a certain number of credits in the form of a subscription, and the data the subscribers access are then reviewed.

 If the data are deemed "permissible," according to AT&T, users can keep the initial number of credits allotted to them; if the data are "non-permissible," including file sharing and movie downloading, the user/subscriber is subject to increased restrictions such as fines, site blockages, and slower internet speed.

This news comes two days after new net neutrality legislation was introduced as the Open Internet Preservation Act, reinstating rules for egalitarian internet usage established by the Open Internet Act which were struck down just last month, when Verizon challenged the FCC's ability to enforce anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules.