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Ops Don Net-Use Caps

2/07/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Time Warner Cable will expand a test of usage-based Internet billing to four additional markets, while Charter Communications said it will impose usage limits on most of its broadband users starting Feb. 9.

On an earnings call last week, Time Warner Cable chief operating officer Landel Hobbs said the operator will expand its “consumption-based billing” beyond the small Beaumont, Texas, system where it initiated a test last year. The operator did not identify the additional markets.

In the Texas trial, the MSO has been charging $1 for every Gigabyte a subscriber uses above a preset threshold. For example, new subscribers in Beaumont who took the top-tier 15-Megabits-per-second downstream service ($54.90 per month) have been capped at 40 GB.

Time Warner Cable plans to introduce larger caps — as well as smaller ones — as it brings the concept to other areas. “We will be adding a greater number of tiers (likely both higher- and lower-usage plans) to ensure that there is a plan for all of our customers,” Time Warner Cable spokesman Justin Venech said in an e-mail.

Bandwidth-metering has become common practice, though in the U.S. TWC is the only major operator trying out usage-based pricing for now.

Comcast in October 2008 instituted a 250-GB monthly maximum for all broadband subscribers. For its part, Cox Communications limits monthly consumption for its 10 to 20 Mbps tier to 60 GB downstream and for its 5 to 9 Mbps tier to 40 GB downstream.

In Canada, Rogers Communications has phased in usage-based billing over the last two years and Cogeco Cable and Vidéotron also charge per-GB overage fees (see “Translation Please,” page 26).

Now, Charter Communications is adopting bandwidth caps, but isn't billing extra for usage that exceeds the limits.

The MSO will update its acceptable-use policy on Feb. 9 to establish maximum data-consumption limits, spokeswoman Anita Lamont said. Customers with service speeds up to 15 Mbps will be capped at 100 GB per month, and those with between 15 and 25 Mbps will be capped 250 GB per month.

Lamont said fewer than 1% of Charter's customers will be affected by the updated policy, “as they consume far less bandwidth than the threshold allows.” The company will contact those who do exceed the limit to attempt to resolve any issues before their service is suspended, she added.

For now, Lamont said, Charter will not impose a consumption threshold for its freshly launched 60-Mbps download Ultra60 service, available initially only in parts of the St. Louis market (see “Charter Hits Fast Lane,” Feb. 2, 2009, p. 2).


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