updated 08:50 am EDT, Fri April 10, 2009
TWC Cap Increase
Time Warner Cable's expanded trials of metered Internet service will include significantly higher average caps and a pseudo-unlimited option, the company's COO Landel Hobbs said in an online statement. After facing criticism for offering a maximum cap of just 40GB per month in Texas trials with unlimited overage fees, the provider is now boosting its original 5GB-40GB range for Road Runner service to 10GB-60GB and is adding a 100GB tier for $75 per month. It will also limit the overage charges themselves to a maximum of $75 extra per month and, practically, restore unlimited Internet access at a price of $150 per month.
Some markets will also get DOCSIS 3.0 access at $99 per month for 50Mbps downloads and 5Mbps uploads, though it's not specified whether these users will be subject to the same caps as regular users on the DOCSIS 2.0 network.
Hobbs nonetheless maintains that caps are necessary and claims that "industry analysts" have warned capacity on many Internet providers may run out by 2012, purportedly forcing carriers to increase their prices to both discourage excessively heavy downloading and help fund network upgrades. A bandwidth-based model theoretically keeps use in check while allowing the truly light users to pay as little as $15 per month.
"This [use increase] could result in Internet brownouts," he argues. "If we don't act, consumers' Internet experience will suffer. Sitting still is not an option."
Critics, however, have observed that the actual cost of bandwidth for Time Warner and others is disproportionately low relative to the new prices, even on the projected timeline. They note that the trials significantly avoid areas where Verizon's FIOS and other uncapped, high-speed service co-exists alongside Road Runner and is thus likely to steal customers from Time Warner's network. Others have also charged that the caps are being kept artificially low to protect Time Warner's TV business as customers may cancel regular TV service in favor of iTunes purchases or web video services like Hulu.
Trials are set to expand to Greensboro, North Carolina and Rochester, New York in August and will return to Texas for Austin and San Antonio trials in October. It's not yet determined whether the trials will become permanent or apply to all areas.