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Time Warner Pulls Plug On Metered Billing Tests

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the scream-loud-enough-and-be-heard dept.

The Internet 112

fudreporter is one of many who writes to tell us that Time Warner is not planning to continue their tiered consumption tests at this time. The company is not completely admitting defeat, stating that they "may return to the idea in the future," but for now the test has been shut down. "The plan would have established several tiers based on how much consumers use the Internet. Time Warner Cable had said at the time that it believed that consumers who download the most content need to pay more to cover infrastructure upgrades. The plan was first announced two weeks ago, then modified with higher download caps last week. In a news release yesterday, Glenn Britt, the chief executive of Time Warner Cable, said, 'We will not proceed with implementation of additional tests until further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met.'"

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Um... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27619787)

It's a good thing they're pulling the plug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27619809)

Imagine how much bandwidth Slashdot readers waste on dupes!

Re:Um... (5, Funny)

Chad Birch (1222564) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620057)

ScuttleMonkey didn't do his job as an editor properly?

I must say, I am shocked and dismayed at this sudden development!

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27620135)

This has to be the best first post I've seen in months. Why did you post anon?

Re:Um... (4, Insightful)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620169)

Yea, but this article comes with this gem of a quote:

Time Warner Cable had said at the time that it believed that consumers who download the most content need to pay more to cover infrastructure upgrades

Meaning, if you are a heavy user, you pay for the infrastructure upgrade (that you never actually get, while they oversell those upgrades!), and STILL get charged for being a heavy user! It's genius!

Re:Um... (1)

BabyDuckHat (1503839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620421)

I'm off to copy some high-rates comments from the previous submission...

Re:Um... (2, Informative)

SashaMan (263632) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620595)

In fairness, that article is a report that Time Warner was originally planning to postpone the cap tests until later this year. The news here is that now they've scrapped the idea altogether. A big difference, especially if you live in Austin.

Tests (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619791)

Their mistake was in having tests. If they wanted to push this through, they should have unilaterally instated it like Comcast did. After all, what are you going to do if you don't like it?

Re:Tests (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619991)

Evidently their users are less educated than Comcast's. Once TW learn's up their customers, they'll be more accepting of caps.

Their mistake was in having tests. (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620861)

If they wanted to push this through, they should have unilaterally instated it like Comcast did. After all, what are you going to do if you don't like it?

Push for a free market. I'm one of the lucky ones, if my cable ISP tried to cap downloads/uploads I could switch to DSL, however I'd still let them know I was contacting all of my government representatives and tell them I want them to push to open up the infrastructure and or push for a free market in net access. Just one person doing it wouldn't have much of an effect but a lot of people doing it can.

Falcon

If they'd just started with a simple price per gig (3, Insightful)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619793)

If they'd just started with a simple price per gig and kept it to the reasonable electric/water model, they'd have been fine. The Cell phone model was a lot of the reason they had backlash I suspect.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619885)

It doesn't make sense to bill transfer like you do water or gas. Water you don't use is still there tomorrow. Transfer you don't use is lost forever.

Since the cost to run the system is fixed, price per gig is lowest when you're maximally utilizing the system. Since a per gig charge encourages people to use less, it's encouraging less economical behavior.

As in any other industry, if your customers want too much of your product you should make more. Punishing your customers for using your product is just backwards.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (5, Insightful)

regrepsnefpoh (1442877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620303)

Wrong. The internet backbone is fundamentally limited and, thanks to bittorent, it's finally being congested. Think about it this way: if everyone maxed out their connections all the time, everyone's connection speed would be a small fraction of what they currently take for granted. As media streaming -- bittorent, netflix, hulu, or whatever -- becomes increasingly popular, connection speeds WILL hit a wall. When people do realize that internet bandwidth is a limited commodity, something is going to have to give. I, for one, am not going to pay the same monthly fee for 1GB/month (to use basic sites like slashdot) that 100GB/month users use to download illegal media. Sure, I'm opposed to RIAA, as is everyone on slashdot. But there comes a point where I'm fed up with these bandwidth leeches.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (3, Interesting)

Erie Ed (1254426) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620343)

Wrong. The internet backbone is fundamentally limited and, thanks to bittorent, it's finally being congested. Think about it this way: if everyone maxed out their connections all the time, everyone's connection speed would be a small fraction of what they currently take for granted. As media streaming -- bittorent, netflix, hulu, or whatever -- becomes increasingly popular, connection speeds WILL hit a wall. When people do realize that internet bandwidth is a limited commodity, something is going to have to give. I, for one, am not going to pay the same monthly fee for 1GB/month (to use basic sites like slashdot) that 100GB/month users use to download illegal media. Sure, I'm opposed to RIAA, as is everyone on slashdot. But there comes a point where I'm fed up with these bandwidth leeches.

See here's the problem...with unlimited bandwidth TW still made money. As a matter of fact their OPS cost went down and their profit went up. So the argument that more bandwidth cost them more $$$ doesn't hold any water.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (2, Interesting)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620559)

As I said in one of the other TWC threads:

What should happen is that they should stop overselling their pipes. If Comcast has 100Mbps of bandwidth for the 100 users on my node, then they shouldn't sell me a 6Mbps plan; it should be a 2Mbps plan at most. If I have a download running at 4AM and noone else is online, then there will be more empty bandwidth on the node, and I might get 6Mbps on my download as a "free bonus".

Then at least if everyone on the node is using the network at once, I'll have 50% of what Comcast sold me, instead of ~15%.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620909)

As long as those illegal bandwidth leaches are not downloading at the same time as you it's not a problem. Peak capacity is getting to be an issue, discouraging the downloading of big files at peak times and shifting it to the small hours helps keep everybody happy. on the other hand downloading of legal tv shows is going to grow with people barely content to fill the buffer before watching. Maybe the cable and tv companies should be supplying better boxes with a decent quantity of storage space so when people choose to watch something chances are the box will already have grabbed it. Maybe just have neighborhood servers packed with the current weeks broadcasts. Guessing whats going to be needed for say a 1000 homes probably would be fairly easy after a few months.

broadband leeches (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621069)

I'm fed up with these bandwidth leeches.

Oh, you mean like all those who use that bandwidth to watch cable hdtv?

Falcon

Re:broadband leeches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622491)

why do you sign all your posts

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621291)

No it won't. there is no wall that can't be upgraded past.

You're just making stuff up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623217)

"The internet backbone is fundamentally limited and, thanks to bittorent, it's finally being congested"

That's a rather interesting statement to make. Did you read that on the inter-tubes?

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27624461)

I, for one, am not going to pay the same monthly fee for 1GB/month (to use basic sites like slashdot) that 100GB/month users use to download illegal media.

What about someone who uses 100GB/month to download legal content? That sounds like a normal amount for normal internet usage + IPTV usage for a family.

Theres no such thing as a bandwidth leech. Until time warner offers $0.50 plans to the vast majority of their users, they have to accept that some people will get their moneys worth instea dof getting majorly ripped off.\

as an aside, what kind of service do you get way up there on that high horse of yours?

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624775)

The internet backbone is NOT CONGESTED!!! Freaking read up on it at arstechnica. The last two years average utilization and peak utilization of the backbone has DECREASED!! Argh I want to strangle people who just buy into the PR spin of companies like TWC!

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27620309)

Yes, but if people use more, they have to build more pipes (either water or data), which costs money.

There's also the difference between marginal costs and total costs. If you charge everyone the marginal cost plus a bit for profit, you won't be able to pay for most of the fixed costs.

Charging everyone a flat rate will encourage light users not to buy the service, even though there may be a price at which it would be beneficial for both ISP and customer to do business.

Charging heavy users more than light ones may be a solution, as heavy users are more likely to be willing to pay more for internet access. This would be valid even if the marginal cost of bandwidth was negligible. I suspect this is the approach they're trying to take.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620323)

"Since the cost to run the system is fixed, price per gig is lowest when you're maximally utilizing the system. Since a per gig charge encourages people to use less, it's encouraging less economical behavior."

Cute play on logic. It only goes to show that measuring the byte count is not the way to go. Measuring speed is the way to go.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620365)

However, if there's no cost to consuming bandwidth it does create shortages. As we've learned in economics 101 if the price is too low for a scarce commodity, you get a shortage. Using the bandwidth to consume it all doesn't make much sense. If TWC puts in meters and finds out that traffic drops in half, they can get a lot more customers online for the same pipes, costing less per customer.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620923)

I think the issue here is the completely capricious and arbitrary number they used. 60GB for the highest tier? GO TAKE A HIKE! I have 13 months of usage data that puts me close to there on average, but I'd be totally boned for those months that I went way over.

Give me a 20Mb/s line with a 250GB cap at the price I'm currently paying and I'll be fine.

Economics 101 (2, Insightful)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621013)

As we've learned in economics 101 if the price is too low for a scarce commodity, you get a shortage

Economics 101 also says that if you're short of resources you increase them. Broadband providers were given hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to buildout broadband but all they did with it was pad their bottomline.

Falcon

Re:Economics 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622345)

Where the hell are my mod points...

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622759)

If TWC puts in meters and finds out that traffic drops in half, they can get a lot more customers online for the same pipes, costing less per customer.

And at the same time the customers get less internet service. What you're really implying is: if the customers only agree to limit themselves, then TWC can make more profits. ???. Everybody is happy.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (0)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620457)

Um, we have 100Mb to the Internet. That connection is via fiber. We pay based on bandwidth used, and sever that up.

All ISPs over subscribe their service. That is how the service can be made so affordable. If all users were to use 20% of their bandwidth non-stop, that would fill up most ISPs entire bandwidth.

They are like pipes in this regard. If everyone turned their water on full blast all the time, there would be trouble. If everyone left their unlimited M2M cell phones on all the time, trouble.

That's just reality. Personally, I think ISPs would benefit from smart QoSing as well as developing some new caching routines. Chrome has some caching extensions. P2P has ISP caching capabilities. Take those who are your top 5% and lower their priority. Let them have pipe if it's available.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621011)

For grandma who wants to download about 2 gigabytes of email (but probably less), it is hilarious to claim that a $50 connection is more economic. The provider wouldn't get to charge her as much, so her connection would be less profitable for them, but it isn't real likely that it would be more expensive for her.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27621113)

As in any other industry, if your customers want too much of your product you should make more. Punishing your customers for using your product is just backwards.

Or you raise the cost when you are at max production. This is what Time Warner is trying to do

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (4, Interesting)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621257)

The water analogy is priceless...

Even where there is potentially plenty of water, drinkable water is NOT an unlimited resource. And it's not 'there' if you don't use it. Water evaporates and leaks. But the reality is that water, like bandwidth, is a finite resource. It costs to find water, transport and store it, make it drinkable, and then dispose of it. If you use more, it gets scarcer.

Bandwidth is also finite. It costs money to provision for it, actually maintain it, solve problems.

Some of you may remember when you were responsible for the Internet link at work - when the DDS2 circuit didn't cut it any more, the ISDN line was maxed out (thank God!) and then the T-1 wasn't enough, and 4 T-1s bonded couldn't handle it. With every increase in bandwidth came more costs, for a new or more DSU/CSU, new router, firewall. You used an external mail server to filter the spam, saving 90% of your POP/SMTP traffic. You blocked WebShots, and your CEO drove you c-r-a-z-y with the constantly-updating cnnmoney.com Now it's Flash that eats bandwidth, and you want to block YouTube, Facebook, and Hulu to keep from cranking up another link just to satisfy non-business browsing.

I understand the cable cos dilemma - Only a few users can hammer bandwidth, and affect everyone. The cost is spread, but not enough.

But that's the business. If you don't want to be held to account for selling an 'unlimited' service you need to limit, maybe you need to re-think your marketing and product. If I were managing the Internet service at a business, and the boss told me that fast response and reliability were mission-critical, I'd just tell him the cost. It's the reliable-fast-cheap thing again. Any two of the three, sir.

So Time-Warner, maybe you should reconsider the unlimited thing altogether. When the price gets high enough, someone will come in and compete. Until then, keep looking over your shoulder.

ps- Former co-workers of mine who are at Time-Warner working in the networking group tell me it's a constant tug of war, keeping the system responsive and costs low. They understand, but of course they have no real power. And then the consultants come in....

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622063)

I pretty much agree with you, with a couple of caveats. I don't think the water analogy is really all that good for two reasons:

  • Water is cheap to extract up to a point, and then you hit an absolute maximum beyond which the price of extraction jumps up by orders of magnitude (desalinization plants, condensing towers, and so on). For networking infrastructure, by contrast, the cost for adding new trunk lines tends to be fairly linear assuming you divide the cost of each long haul link up among the more local links that it feeds. There's not a capacity wall (at least as long as the backbone router technology is able to keep up with demands on it).
  • You don't pay a $50 connection fee to your water company in addition to the per-unit costs. Outside of the telecom industry, charging a base fee on top of per-unit fees is unheard of. Your power company doesn't do that, your gas company doesn't do that, your water doesn't do that. Your sewer company doesn't do that. Just telephone/ISP service (and to a limited degree, cable TV, except that most of the content they provide isn't metered).

So if the ISPs want to charge $2 per gigabyte across the board and not charge a base fee, that's their prerogative, but I guarantee they'll make a heck of a lot less money that way. I think they should have to choose flat rate or metered---not both.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27624329)

Outside of the telecom industry, charging a base fee on top of per-unit fees is unheard of. Your power company doesn't do that, your gas company doesn't do that, your water doesn't do that.

Yes they do, at least in TX. (one of the planned test areas). Of course, in this state "consumer protection" means they wear a condom while doing you up the ass.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27624301)

Since the cost to run the system is fixed, price per gig is lowest when you're maximally utilizing the system. Since a per gig charge encourages people to use less, it's encouraging less economical behavior.

Besides the point since they'll charge you a basic monthly fee before the per-gig meter starts. You didn't think you'd only pay JUST the gigs you've used did you? Look at your electric bill. You'll notice there's a base fee prior to the kWs you consume.

That's to ensure the basic running of the utility is met, even if the people use less.

Re:If they'd just started with a simple price per (1)

BabyDuckHat (1503839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620469)

No, we'd have been fine, but they wouldn't have made as much money.

See - if they create tiers:

1) You use less than your cap = higher cost per GB
2) You use more than your cap = higher cost per GB due to additional chargers

It's the same system the cellphone companies use, and TWC wants some of that sweet action.

Not sure what is wrong with Tierd service (0, Troll)

etijburg (684177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619817)

I am not sure what is wrong with them changing their plans/business model away from unlimited. We here in the US are so spoiled with Unlimited Internet. If everyone used the internet like the top 1% and did hundreds of GB a month then NO ISP would be able to be profitable.

Re:Not sure what is wrong with Tierd service (2, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619897)

The problem is that the ISPs don't pay by the GB for what they use, they pay for bandwidth.

Re:Not sure what is wrong with Tierd service (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619947)

The problem is the structure of the tiers.

Rather than having it work like electricity, where there is a peak and off peak rate per kWh, and paying for what you use, it would end up being more like a cell phone plan, where you pay for 10 gigs, and if you go over by a kilobyte suddenly THAT bandwidth costs fifty times as much.

At least my cell provider rolls over minutes (to a certain extent) each month if I don't use them; you can bet Time Warner would not be so gracious towards people who don't fully utilize what they pay for.

translation (3, Insightful)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619819)

We will not proceed with implementation of additional tests until further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met.

Translation: We like having customers and don't want the government taking away our freedom to implement usage caps quite yet.

Re:translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622621)

really?
I translated more to "For some reason, when we told people we were monitoring their usage, the usage spiked to all new highs, so we want to stop that behavior..."

Is this the same story posted yesterday? (1)

avishere (1524593) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619827)

Good news item, but has it been done? http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/04/16/2047220 [slashdot.org]

Wait, the test part is new. Nevermind! (1)

avishere (1524593) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619841)

Oops.

Re:Wait, the test part is new. Nevermind! (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619925)

fail [pacdudegames.com]

Is this the new "market research?" (1)

nate_in_ME (1281156) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619855)

I think TW just found the missing step...

1. Announce "test" of potentially controversial policy change.
2. Wait and see what the response is to your announcement.
3. Make a decision based on the response - thereby saving the $$$ that actual market research would have cost.
4. Profit!

Wouldn't be all that upset (4, Interesting)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619889)

Some bloggers also speculated that the plan was part of a scheme to discourage people from watching streaming videos online rather than watching Time Warner Cable on television, which Time Warner officials denied.

I wouldn't actually be all that upset if Time Warner was able to kill video streamed over the Internet. I like the way the Internet is now. Maybe I'm being too conservative, but moving video over from the sunk cost that is the cable network we already have in place is going to be too costly and to me seems dangerous to the Internet as we know it.

I personally think tiered pricing is a move in the right direction, though. As it stands now, heavy transfer people are being subsidized by those who are light users. This does not exempt communications companies from being held responsible for the universal service funds they most likely squandered, but consumption based billing only makes sense. It always surprises me how this remains a perpetual issue.

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (5, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619951)

Maybe I'm being too conservative, but moving video over from the sunk cost that is the cable network we already have in place is going to be too costly and to me seems dangerous to the Internet as we know it.

Moving data across the cable network is free. The cable company owns those lines and doesn't pay for moving data across it any more than you pay for moving data across your lan. It's only the data that goes across the backbone that costs. If anything, cable companies should be hosting local mirrors of things like Hulu, or encouraging greater USENET use.

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (3, Informative)

Binestar (28861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620061)

Road Runner recently killed their USENET service. If you want usenet you need to get an outside source.

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620185)

I would agree.

With regard to your post above, does the fact that bandwidth is oversold not change the economics of it to something that is different from other utilities? Another honest question, is it still today necessary to oversell bandwidth to such ratios as 10:1 or higher?

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622671)

The homeowners association where I used to live had a monopoly contract for internet service with a small ISP that oversold 100:1 and charged over 100USD per month for a 3mbps connection. The result was virtually unusable during peak hours. Their equipment was ridiculously unreliable and it often stopped working for days at a time. The solution? I moved. Now I have the choice between 25mbps FTTH for 50USD per month and 1mbps DSL for 18USD per month.

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620455)

I don't have any intimate network knowledge, but just thinking off the top of my head... would it make sense for the larger networks (Television Networks) to establish some some of 'neighborhood repository' with cached replicas of their programs? That would eliminate congestion except for the 'last mile' connection directly home.

Or does normal network caching already accomplish this, invisibly?

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621379)

Most companies don't provide decent access to USENET anymore. Since most people don't use it (currently), why should ISPs support it?

I find them to be very useful but understand the decision to remove them.

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27620035)

You probably also think Ted Stevens makes a down-right sensible argument as well.

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27620513)

I just calculated what the internet connection would cost me in tiered model. Some 5000 euros/month! Instead that I'm happy with my 45 euros/month unlimited connection.

Capping the internet connections and moving to tiered model is the best way to hamper innovation and progress in the whole country on an area that is most important. We're now moving into networked information society, a change alike to moving to industrialism earlier. If you really want the USA to be the last country to be there, and have all the doors locked and all the spots filled already when it reaches there, please go ahead... Support tiering and capping.

It's not about business. It's not about technology. Nothing about the issue is about technology. It's about culture. The capabilities to action with a completely new mindset. You either build or nurture that or 20 years along you're living in a 3rd world country.

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621077)

I too am quite satisfied with my uncapped 16/1 mbit connection, but I don't see a problem with capping, as long as there's still an option for a more expensive uncapped connection. Sure, I'm glad that I've got an Internet flat for 35 Euros a month, but I'd pay 50 if I had to, especially if that meant I'd get full speed more often...

Obviously the overage charges have to go - most 3G services here just throttle your connection down to 128kbps or so when you hit the cap... maybe cable and DSL companies could just try that...

Re:Wouldn't be all that upset (1)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622645)

get me a basic cable with video on demand since I work during all of the showtimes for the shows I like, and I'll be fine with the internet not having TV on it. Until then, the internet grabbing the video makes sense and is simple logical progression based on convenience needs. I don't have the equipment to record shows while I'm away from home, so that's not an option.

It's a bad idea (4, Insightful)

drmemnoch (142036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619907)

I get what TW is trying to do here. With hulu, youtube, netflix, p2p, bittorrent and the plethora of other options for downloading entertaining content users are going to slowly start canceling their cable services. Especially the premium content that TW get's so much revenue from (HBO, Sports packages etc.)

Now you can pretty much stream any sporting event live, so even that isn't going to keep viewers subscribed.

But they are missing one critical piece. Most users don't know anything about how the software on their computers work. They automatically assume that their A/V product will protect them from every botnet and worm out there. Is some 66 year-old woman who is infected with a botnet and sending out gigs of SPAM per day really using the bandwidth she would pay for. She has been diligent in trying to protect he computer by installing A/V software, but she is by no means and expert and shouldn't be expected to know that a botnet has infected her computer. The botnet software is designed to hide itself from her knowledge.

So who is TW going to charge for that bandwidth usage. Because as far as she is concerned all she did was download a few pics of the grandkids, send a few emails, and do some genealogy research. Then she gets hit with a Tier1 usage bill. She won't be able to sufficiently explain the extra usage, and I'm pretty certain the person answering phones at TW won't be able to explain it either.

Re:It's a bad idea (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620147)

Or worse, she might actually think she's using that much, and try cutting back her meager Internet usage to compensate.

Re:It's a bad idea (1)

justin12345 (846440) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620533)

You're right, the migration from cable TV to cable internet is at the very heart of this issue. You don't hear DSL providers championing the pay per bit idea, they have all (Verizon, AT&T, etc) moved on to being cell providers and 3G (where they can charge pay per bit without anyone making a fuss because its "new"). These cable companies see the writing on the wall: that cable TV will be all but dead in a decade or so, but they don't have a plan to replace that lost revenue. The real issue is isn't that their networks aren't able to handle moving additional data, it their fear of not being able to move additional dollars.

Re:It's a bad idea (1)

mpcooke3 (306161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621407)

Best bet for TW would be to throttle the bandwidth after X GB transferred in a month (to still allow email checking etc,). Allow the user to top up or upgrade a tier fairly easily and drop the user an email to let them know as they get close to the throttling cap and when they hit it.

Next to no support requirements, fairer distribution of available bandwidth, no cut offs and it might throttles worms and bot nets a bit. They could make the cap high and still sell it as unlimited just claim it's automated enforcement of the "fair useage" policy.

Other interested parties (3, Informative)

Xian97 (714198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619911)

I am assuming that the other interested parties were US Congressmen...

From arstechnica.com:
That "misunderstanding" went all the way to the top. Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY) last week announced his plan to introduce a bill placing limits on the ability of companies like TWC to cap its connections, especially in areas where it was a virtual monopoly. But it took a heavier hitterâ"in this case, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)â"to make TWC change its ways.

Translation: (1)

ZebadiahC (125747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619939)

'We will not proceed with implementation of additional tests until further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met.'"

Meaning, we realized that we could attract some serious legal/legislative visibility by targeting areas where we have a near monopoly with a tiered pricing system.

"Measuring" the internet (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27619945)

People don't measure the internet the way machines do. Machines tend to measure byte counts. People can't do that. We can count numbers of pages but even that gets a bit questionable with frames and auto-refreshing pages and the like. We can count how many hours we sit in our chair, but are we really in the chair or did we start something and then walk away?

If they want to charge based on usage, it had better be presented in a way that makes human sense. People downloading P2P and people streaming video are still all downloading content.

It all doesn't make any sense. The best solution is to control the speed of the connection and be done with it. How hard could it be? And while we are fixing problems, let's get ISPs regulated like any other utility? You know, like phone, power or water?

Re:"Measuring" the internet (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620245)

Machines tend to measure byte counts. People can't do that.

Yeah, like people naturally measure their water use in gallons, or their electricity use in kilowatt-hours. Wait, people can't do that either. That's what tools are for. Tools like ISP web pages that display how much data you've transferred in the current billing period.

Re:"Measuring" the internet (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620409)

The cost and usage of people and water are not as mysterious nor as variable as "internet." A person clicks on a link and he cannot know if 10 bytes or 10 megabytes will come down. Sure, there can be meters after the fact, but there is no real connection with content nor real consumption. I suppose something similar could be said with internet usage as well, but with water and electricity, there is an element of predictability with what you will get when you turn things on. With internet, you don't. And what about those poor bastards whose machines are members of botnets burning up their caps without their knowledge or comprehension?

Re:"Measuring" the internet (1)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620555)

They'll do the same thing as the poor bastards whose pipes burst without their knowledge: see their bill, call their ISP and ask 'What the hell?!?'

People can gauge how much information they're downloading from a webpage about as well as they can gauge how much electricity their refrigerator is using.

The problem is, Time Warner is right (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620021)

I've been saying for years that any system wherein you can use as much as you want of a shared resource as you want for a single, fixed price inherently suffers from "The Tragedy of the Commons" problems, and that the internet must inevitably adopt some sort of "pay per byte" business model. I even think the multi-tier model makes more sense than counting every byte. My only objection is that as a consumer I would like to know in advance how much my bill will be every month (makes it a lot easier to stay on budget), and thus the consumer should have the option of choosing either reduced access or getting bumped into a higher cost tier when they exceed a bandwidth limit. Hughes Net satellite internet only gives you the first option, it automatically degrades your connection to less than dial-up bandwidth for 24 hours every time you download too many bytes. Yeah, I'd prefer to know how many bytes the limit is, and get some sort of warning when I'm approaching it, but the truth remains it is a shared resource, which justifies "punishing" those that use more than others.

Re:The problem is, Time Warner is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27620385)

use as much as you want of a shared resource

Damn, if only someone could come up with an economic system whereby individuals or companies with money could use that money to create resources that could be sold for more money. While I'm dreaming here, let's make up names for these things... we could call money "capital", and spending that money to produce more money, "capital improvements". Hell, let's call the whole thing "capitalism".

Oh, who am I kidding... cable companies will continue to use their money to pay off mayors and city councils to keep competition out and pay out the rest to their executives.

Re:The problem is, Time Warner is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27620519)

the internet must inevitably adopt some sort of "pay per byte" business model.

If "the internet" were a single business this might make sense.

Re:The problem is, Time Warner is right (4, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620551)

Heh, your nick is funny given the content of your post.

The problem, though, is that this isn't just a typical shared resource. If we were talking about food, or oil, or water, of course a flat-rate, all-you-can-eat model wouldn't work. All of those are commodities that can be used up.

Internet access is different. You can't "use up" your connection, in the sense of permanently depleting it, requiring that more be made or acquired. All you can do is saturate it. Obviously if too many people seek to saturate a finite connection at one time, there won't be enough to go around, but there's no permanent depletion. That's not exactly the same as the traditional tragedy of the commons.

To make an analogy, think of a buffet that serves chicken wings. Let's assume they can serve 1000 wings per hour, and that the wings have a marginal cost of $0.

So, if we only serve 100 customers at a time and assume that they will eat 10 wings / hr., we should be alright. Now, maybe we decide to oversell our capacity, and serve 200 people at a time, banking that the average customer only eats 5 wings / hr. Sure, they may be a few who gorge themselves and eat 25 wings an hour, but they'll be balanced out.

Now, we notice that the average person is eating 20 wings an hour. So, we have several options. We could only admit 50 people at a given time. We could serve 2000 wings an hour, and still take 100 people. We could limit everyone to 10 wings an hour. Or, we could ditch the buffet idea, and start changing everyone $1 / wing.

Notice which one of those doesn't actually solve the capacity problem: charging per wing. Sure, maybe it discourages people from gorging themselves on 100 wings, but if the average consumption is rising, charging by wing doesn't fix the capacity problem.

Re:The problem is, Time Warner is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27621041)

The problem was never capacity. The problem is that people are canceling their cable TV, which has been a very popular recommendation on blogs during "these difficult financial times". If TWC actually gives up on tiers they are going to start cutting off users who share files. They will protect their profits.

Re:The problem is, Time Warner is right (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621075)

Unless of course charging $1 per wing is profitable enough that you are able to continuously expand your buffet.

As long as prices are sufficient to cover costs and capital upgrades, you don't need to use the pricing model to address capacity problems.

Re:The problem is, Time Warner is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27624051)

Charging extra for peak usage solves this problem. Electric companies already do it. They have a depletable resource that suffers bandwidth constraints. They charge by total usage to alleviate the first problem, and they charge by peak usage to solve the second.

ISPs (mostly) have the second problem. This also incentivizes exactly the right behavior. When lots of people are using the Internet, people will lower their usage. When not a lot of people are using it, people will use as much as they want (at no extra cost to the provider).

Re:The problem is, Time Warner is right (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621635)

"I've been saying for years that any system wherein you can use as much as you want of a shared resource as you want for a single, fixed price inherently suffers from "The Tragedy of the Commons" problems, and that the internet must inevitably adopt some sort of "pay per byte" business model."

WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

TW is doing this one one reason. Because they can. In most markets they have no competition. If you don't like what they do, tough shit, you have no where else to go. It's the same reason they charge ridiculous prices for their Internet service. Because they can.

Create real competition by forcing the cable and telephone monopolies to open up their networks. Over night, prices will go down, speeds will go up and download caps will never be heard of again.

Here's how that works (2, Informative)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620041)

"may return to the idea in the future"

So they'll keep that in their back pocket and every time they need to actually put some money into infrastructure improvements, they'll trot this out. Oh, if we could only meter billing for the really big users. Everything that's wrong with telecomm and the internet will hang on this issue. If we could just do this, then everything would be better. They'll pay for PR press hits in industry rags, try to make it look like an inevitable development. They'll wait for the political climate to change, the regulatory environment, like a stubborn infection they'll be ready to strike the moment defenses are weak.

Help New York Rep. Eric Massa (3, Informative)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620043)

Support his bill to "encourage" what Time Warner can do with the $200 billion in infrastructure that was paid for by taxpayers.
http://blog.wired.com/business/2009/04/congressman [wired.com]
Write your congressman to support this bill
https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml [house.gov]
Get it passed.

Re:Help New York Rep. Eric Massa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622495)

how did a broken link get +5 informative? anybody know what link he was talking about?

Re:Help New York Rep. Eric Massa (1)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623621)

Your first link gives a 404.

Meanwhile in Canada (1)

Digital_Quartz (75366) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620345)

Meanwhile, here in Canada, Bell is effectively forcing all their competitors [www.cbc.ca] to use the same usage-based-billing scheme they are.

Caps just won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27620449)

Putting caps on people just won't work. If I purchase lots of movies or shows from iTunes, I'll pull more data, sure. But capping how much I can use before jacking up the price? That just won't work. Besides, some nights I just like bouncing around the internet reading different sites. Some nights I do very little.

I like the earlier analogy of grandma's PC being a spambot. That's an excellent example of someone that would get caught up in all the hoopla. And suddenly sending little old ladies unexpected bills for hundred of dollars is never good P.R.

I can understand charging for different connection speeds. I've got that now with Cox and I choose to pay for the lowest speed. It suits what I need. I could even understand capping the speed of the top 5% of users once they hit a monthly GB limit. But don't charge me extra just because I utilize the internet over some super-secret size limitation.

Why piss off their best customers? (3, Interesting)

SashaMan (263632) | more than 5 years ago | (#27620761)

Here's why this was a colossally stupid idea on Time Warner's part: they were destined to piss off their savviest users who know the most about how to switch. Even though TWC is the "default" high-bandwidth option in Austin, there are alternatives in most places. While Suzy homemaker reading emails and doing light web surfing probably doesn't know much about those other options, the heavy users do. There was a huge revolt among the tech-savvy in Austin - local tech mailing lists became a TWC bitchfest, with pretty much everyone saying they weren't only going to cancel their own service if this went through, but they were going to actively help their friends and family members quit as well.

Re:Why piss off their best customers? (2, Interesting)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621973)

Lol, when this news first hit, I called earthlink, got the scoop they were not going to cap, called my mother and sister and told them they would be changing ISPs. When they asked why, I told them TWC was trying to screw them out of their money. They both told me to come do what I needed to do to switch them. TWC really wants to piss people off. My mom called me today and wants to still switch to earthlink and get satellite TV. Fucking morons at TWC. When 58 year old ladies hate your fucking guts, you know you screwed up big time.

TWC's Consultation (1)

Wingsy (761354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621255)

"We will not proceed with implementation of additional tests until further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met."

Here, TWC, consult with this: Place any caps on my account and I will terminate it immediately.

tu3gi8l (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27621547)

hogs need to pay more, or others pay less (2, Insightful)

bwhalen (246170) | more than 5 years ago | (#27621601)

Pricing should be based on usage, until you've worked for an ISP you won't realize that 5% of your users use a majority of the resources. People who download all day should pay more than a couple hour rec user after work who reads email and surfs.

Re:hogs need to pay more, or others pay less (1)

stizzmindspring.com (686900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623705)

This would be fine if they didn't promise unlimited bandwidth; which is what I was shopping for when I bought my connection. Now they are essentially saying "those that bought our unlimited internet are using it too much" which is frankly bullshit.

Anbody else... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622133)

Anybody else read that as "We will discontinue testing until we buy off^H^H^H^Hdeal with the legislators..."

An Idea..... (2, Interesting)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622363)

""Time Warner Cable had said at the time that it believed that consumers who download the most content need to pay more to cover infrastructure upgrades.""

-----And by 'Infrastructure Upgrades" they mean 'Advertising Campaigns'. Honestly, does ANYONE out there believe that the extra money would go towards upgrading infrastructure. The idea of throttling is more rooted in the fact that ISPs oversell their bandwidth far in excess of their capacity, and now want to 'upgrade' so they can accommodate traffic they should have accommodated long ago instead of spending those dollars on ad campaigns. I am by no means fooled about the true intentions of the money they hoped to generate. They *will* simply continue to advertise services (which they lack sufficient capacity to offer), recruit new customers, and spend the money internally on executive pay. They have been doing this for YEARS and there is nothing in the forseable future that will stop them.

A good rule the FCC could lay down would be:

1. Advertising must stop when the ISP is unable to accomodate the load of 90% of customers on at the same time, and revenue (profit, not gross) generated during that period must be spent increasing capacity, or refunded to the customer base, but cannot be saved for later use, allocated for advertising, or spent on executive pay.

This would have the effect of making sure they retain customers, and upgrade their capacity, since they would not be allowed to stockpile funds for times when they would be allowed to spend them advertising. No company would want to refund massive amounts of money to their customers.

Re:An Idea..... (1)

AlamedaStone (114462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624319)

I'm no ultra-free-market wacko, but wouldn't it be easier (not to mention cheaper to the taxpayer) to just cross our arms and blink them out of the zero-competition bottles these ISPs have been living in for so long?

Barbara Eden, eat your heart out - *I* dream of Schumer...

Re:An Idea..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624793)

Bingo. The 'municipal monopolies' that providers are allowed to enjoy *definitely* harm the taxpayer in two ways:

1. They allow providers to charge rates at will. Just enough to generate massive profits without being flagrantly exploitative. They know just how much they can get away with and when taxpayers will start calling them on exploitative practices. Like movie theaters, they know they can charge *a lot* of money for a Coke and popcorn, but know where the point is where people will simply stop buying concessions and/or stop going to the theater altogether, since they (customers) can wait and rent the film for much cheaper. When the public starts calling them on abuse of their monopolies, laws may be enacted that may end their current monopolies. So, they charge as much as they can without the taxpayers getting wise or pissed off enough to start changing things for them.

2. They guarantee a captive market where they won't have to worry about being underbid by a competitor offering lower rates and/or better services. Other providers may be just as expensive, but may offer a 'better bang for the buck' by offering better customer service, quicker speeds, no bandwidth caps, better privacy, etc. This keeps taxpayers from getting a cheaper or better quality deal. (Theaters are already pretty lax on outside beverages.... Ahhh..... All the beer we smuggled in for the opening of 'Beerfest'!)

I can't believe I left out the "No Municipal Monopolies" part of my rant.....

tiered pricing would be fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622761)

I would be more inclined to accept a tiered pricing plan if that was accompanied by an SLA. If you want to charge me $x for y kbps connectivity, then you need to be held to that figure +/- a reasonable amount of slop. Dropping below y kbps should be accompanied by penalties.

Lobster / Salad concept. (1)

Aahzimandious (1424393) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622951)

People trying to show TWC's thought process as Lobster / Salad meals on the same ticket and splitting the cost isn't fair just don't get it. I've not seen, and I may have just missed it, but all the customers of TWC are paying for Lobster buffet, and some are choosing to eat just the salad. TWC is banking on this. It's PURE profit for them. What they are failing to do, on the scale I feel they are fearing they will need, is increase bandwidth infrastructure .. if it's really needed. Booking profits now, instead of building for the future of the company for what they can see is coming quickly at them. With the changes in offerings of video over the internet and monthly subscriptions to in-your-mailbox DVDs it's cutting into TWC's profits. They are trying to 'twist' how the billing structure is to enhance thier profit not better spread the cost loads. I'm glad TWC has seen the light - at least when they were facing possible law-makers getting involved, but I expect that within a short period of time they will be doing something as bad. I have the same cable modem. I have the same wires in the house. I have the same up/download speeds. Yet, My internet fee rate has gone up about 60% since I started. My pay rate certainly hasn't increased in relation to thier fee's. There's fair market, and there's gouging customers after getting them 'hooked' on fast internet. ** Sure, sugar.. Take it.. First one's free. ** I'll switch to DSL or some other provider source before they get any more money from me.

Mac and Linux metering (1)

mcwop (31034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623167)

I found myself laughing at the thought that if they did meter, it will only work for Windows users, because they would probably be too lazy to create a Mac or Linux version.

Re:Mac and Linux metering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623507)

I found myself laughing at the thought that if they did meter, it will only work for Windows users, because they would probably be too lazy to create a Mac or Linux version.

You're retarded. What the hell gives you the idea that it would matter what OS you use?

Re:Mac and Linux metering (1)

AlamedaStone (114462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624335)

I picture some kind of cheap dongle with a digital readout that could be installed between your current cable modem and the cable line itself.

I don't know if such a device exists, but I can't imagine something that just counts bits with a clock and calendar in it would be much more expensive than a cheap digital watch to mass produce.

ERR:"based on how much consumers use the Internet" (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624727)

The premise is flawed. Not only since the advent of spam zombies and botnets can it never be said that average users should be billed

based on how much consumers use the Internet

- as the Internet "uses them" (by fair means or foul) while they "use the Internet" and providers must face the fact that short of unplugging the modem, most customers have zero grasp of and control over how much data is sent and received.

(Even if they did, the idea of volume would make no quantifiable sense in most people's minds - it would only expose them to a high-stakes gamble of price discrimination.)

Advertising services that require always-on (unmetered) traffic and the speed of connections has certainly played no small part in this (lack of) understanding.

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