updated 05:25 pm EST, Fri February 6, 2009
Time Warner data caps
In response to complaints from unhappy customers, Time Warner plans to introduce broadband packages with data caps above the current 40GB limit that was applied to Beaumont, TX customers as part of a pilot program, according to the Associated Press. Although the company plans to expand the program to other cities, spokesman Alex Dudley acknowledged that a "small but vocal percentage" of customers were dissatisfied with the 40GB cap. Future trials will include a range of packages, with higher priced plans that have a larger data "bucket" along with lower priced options for casual users.
The data caps have received a variety of criticism, with some groups claiming that a 40GB cap is unrealistic. Customers would be restricted to roughly 10 HD-quality movies per month using a media hub. Any additional data usage would incur an extra fee, such as $1 per GB.
FCC regulators could be paying close attention to the limits and price structure, potentially viewing unreasonable terms as an attempt by the cable companies to discourage customers from using competitors' streaming television or movie services.
Comcast came under fire from the FCC for imposing limits on data usage, although only certain traffic was targeted, such as peer-to-peer file sharing. The cable provider is involved in a fresh lawsuit that accuses the company of selectively throttling third-party VoIP transmissions while giving the highest priority to its own service.
Time Warner claims the move is intended to shift the costs of infrastructure upgrades toward the customers that use more bandwidth. "It's clear to us that customers want online video, which requires substantial investment in the network," Dudley said. "We're willing to make that, and we're trying to find an equitable way to distribute the cost of that investment."