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.