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Time Warner Cable tries metered data again, keeps unlimited

updated 10:05 pm EST, Tue February 28, 2012

TWC shifts focus to saving light users money

Time Warner Cable earlier in the week outlined a new attempt at reintroducing metered Internet plans. Subscribers to Lite, Basic, and Standard access in Texas' border corridor, Corpus Christi, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, and San Antonio will have the option of an Essentials plan that saves $5 per month if they agree to a monthly 5GB transfer cap. Customers could switch to and from the plans and wouldn't be mandated.

If a user does run over, overages will cost just $1 per gigabyte and peak at $25 per month.

Online communications head Jeff Simmermon immediately stepped out in front of a possible backlash following mass opposition to the cable giant's first try at a metered system. He was emphatic that TWC would keep unlimited Internet access and acknowledged that some genuinely need large amounts of data. Simmermon went so far as to characterize unlimited as essential to a "free, open Internet."

"Having a usage-based pricing plan isn't going to be for everyone, and that's fine," he explained. "A tiered plan might not be right for me, but my Mom's not going to be passing Final Cut projects through DropBox [sic] to her friends at church anytime soon -- she may benefit by saving a few dollars on Web capacity she's never going to need."

The frankness is a reversal from 2009. TWC at the time not only suggested metered bills would be mandatory but had set low caps that would effectively raise the price even higher for even moderate users. Its pricing options and overage charges would have raised the price of unlimited access up to $150, or roughly double what they were paying at the time.

Like other Internet providers, TWC argued that metering was necessary to get compensation from alleged 'abusers' who consumed more. The limits were treated with skepticism given that they would have seriously discouraged online video and driven some viewers back to traditional TV. Its new method works in the reverse direction, rewarding light users rather than punishing those who might not have much choice.

by MacNN Staff



  1. canadave

    Joined: Dec 1969


    yeah, it's a "reward" for light use..

    ...until they raise all the prices across the board $5.

    These internet companies never cease to amaze me with their transparent arguments in favor of metering. They keep saying "we need to be compensated for those few people who abuse the system." If it's so few people, then how does it make the slightest difference? The companies aren't billed based on who their topmost bandwidth user is--they're billed on their total bandwidth used by their users. There might be a top 5% who use quite a bit of bandwidth, but if those 5% use, say, 60GB a month, that's not that big a deal when you consider that a massive number of people--the other 95%!--are using the lower amount of bandwidth (say, 5GB a month). Smaller bandwidth usage, but HUGE amount of people, so they are a much bigger influence on consumed bandwidth than the 5%.

    Then again maybe that's who these internet companies are targeting by moving toward metered plans. Because those plans sure will reduce the number of subscribers.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    How long before we see

    Roll over Gigs? Probably about the time the raise the price by a minimum of $5, as canadave foresees.

    I can't see applying the "don't tax the wealthy" argument though, with regard to personal bandwidth consumption. From a user perspective, most folks like to know that their monthly bill for a service will be a fixed value, changing little and infrequently over time. Businesses like that too. Your assumption of 5% could just as easily 15%, and the 60Gig could be in the hundreds of Gigs, fluctuating wildly.

    I'm not saying I'm in favor of metered plans as laid out above, but it's quite difficult to plan when the data used for planning is skewed, potentially wildly by abnormal usage. The impact, well, without actual numbers it's just a guessing game.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: yeah, it's a "reward" for light use..

    ...until they raise all the prices across the board $5.

    Which they'll do anyway to make sure they get paid to cover their overall costs.The 'one price fits all' plans that they use makes the assumption that they'll lose money on some users and make money on others. If they start to lose more money (esp. if because of a certain set of users), then they'll raise the prices of everyone to cover the additional costs.

    These internet companies never cease to amaze me with their transparent arguments in favor of metering.

    And the average ranting poster never ceases to amaze me that they think internet access is some magical service that doesn't cost a lot of money to set up lines and connect to the internet. Or that, somehow, internet service providers shouldn't be able to make as much money as they can (and yet, defend apple for their high revenues and profits, because they're a company out to make money and charge what they can get, and that's how business works!).

  1. jscotta

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Internet = Road Infrastructure

    If the internet providers start adjusting how they run and meter for everything, then they need to dump the content supply components. Right now, it just looks like they are trying to limit your content consumption to their own services where they charge little or nothing compared to what you'll have to pay for using a content provider they don't own. For example, AT&T if you leave your U-verse TV on 24 hours a day (or even three TVs), they don't charge you extra for the bandwidth. However, they do want to charge you if you run Netflix/Hulu/etc. AT&T doesn't have a problem if you have an unlimited voice plan and you stay on the phone talking for 24 hours a day. They only care for the unlimited data plans.

    Bottom line is that if they won't drop their conflict of interest position by providing content, then I reluctantly say that the government needs to take over the internet infrastructure. Then they can just content providers and compete directly with the Netflix'es of the world without the pipe advantage.

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