Time Warner Cable is going ahead with a test of metered internet, starting Thursday, for new customers in Beaumont, Texas. The metered billing is TWC’s proposed answer to the problem of bandwidth hogging super users.
5% of TWC’s users take up half of the ISP’s capacity, says Kevin Leddy, Time Warner Cable’s executive vice president of advanced technology.
“We think it’s the fairest way to finance the needed investment in the infrastructure,” Leddy said.
Most ISPs already have “download caps” on their so-called unlimited use accounts, but the caps are kept secret.
Time Warner Cable had said in January that it was planning to conduct the trial in Beaumont, but did not give any details. On Monday, Leddy said its tiers will range from $29.95 a month for relatively slow service at 768 kilobits per second and a 5-gigabyte monthly cap to $54.90 per month for fast downloads at 15 megabits per second and a 40-gigabyte cap. Those prices cover the Internet portion of subscription bundles that include video or phone services. Both downloads and uploads will count toward the monthly cap.
A possible stumbling block for Time Warner Cable is that customers have had little reason so far to pay attention to how much they download from the Internet, or know much traffic makes up a gigabyte. That uncertainty could scare off new subscribers.
Those who mainly do Web surfing or e-mail have little reason to pay attention to the traffic caps: a gigabyte is about 3,000 Web pages, or 15,000 e-mails without attachments. But those who download movies or TV shows will want to pay attention. A standard-definition movie can take up 1.5 gigabytes, and a high-definition movie can be 6 to 8 gigabytes.
Time Warner Cable subscribers will be able to check out their data consumption on a “gas gauge” on the company’s Web page.
The company won’t apply the gigabyte surcharges for the first two months. It has 90,000 customers in the trial area, but only new subscribers will be part of the trial.
We can’t help but think this is going to put a damper on services such as the new Netflix box, or Apple’s iTunes. It may have some pricey implications for deaf cable customers as well, as they tend to use internet video to communicate.
Then again, it does seem more honest than Comcast’s current policy of shutting down users who exceed an undisclosed monthly cap.
What do you think? Will this fly?