updated 04:05 pm EST, Fri January 18, 2008
Time Warner Cap Limits
Time Warner Cable's metered Internet experiment will have caps that may significantly curb increasingly common usage habits, a company spokesman has confirmed. The Beaumont, Texas trial will have 5GB, 10GB, 20GB, and 40GB limits depending on the service level; there will be no unlimited access option when it launches in the spring, Time Warner says. Subscribers who cross the limit for their plan will still have service but will be charged an unspecified amount for each gigabyte of data consumed past the cap. Only new customers in the area will use tiers, while legacy customers will still have unlimited access.
The approach is not unique in the industry but is relatively rare in the US, which either opts for an unlimited model or else 'soft' caps where customers receive warnings rather than extra fees.
However, a successful trial may have a chilling effect on downloadable and streaming video for customers Time Warner or other Internet providers that adopt the policy. Full-length movies from services such as iTunes typically consume more than 1GB of data for standard-definition video, limiting the maximum tier of the Time Warner service to less than 40 movies without any additional usage costs. HD videos available through the Apple TV, Xbox 360, and similar devices typically consume 5GB or more per title.