I never use up my cell-phone plan minutes, do you? The cheapest plan gives you more than I'll ever need. But it's still always in the back of your mind when you're talking on the phone: Don't go over. Time Warner Cable wants to put "don't go over" in the back of your mind, too, when you're uploading or downloading stuff on your cable Internet connection with them. They're introducing monthly allowances on bandwith use, and will levy fees for going over your limit.
Metered usage is common overseas, and other U.S. cable providers are looking at ways to rein in heavy users. Most have download caps, but some keep the caps secret so as not to alarm the majority of users, who come nowhere close to the limits. Time Warner Cable appears to be the first major ISP to charge for going over the limit: Other companies warn, then suspend, those who go over.
Phone companies are less concerned about congestion and are unlikely to impose metered usage on DSL customers, because their networks are structured differently.
Time Warner Cable had said in January that it was planning to conduct the trial in Beaumont, but did not give any details. On Monday, [Time Warner Cable executive vice president] Leddy said its tiers will range from $29.95 a month for relatively slow service at 768 kilobits per second and a 5-gigabyte monthly cap to $54.90 per month for fast downloads at 15 megabits per second and a 40-gigabyte cap. Those prices cover the Internet portion of subscription bundles that include video or phone services. Both downloads and uploads will count toward the monthly cap.
According to Leddy, 5 percent of their customers use half the bandwith. We all know who he's talking about here. A downloaded Hi-def movie might account for up to 8 gigabytes. $30 for 5 gigabytes isn't a very good deal if you're into downloading. Other companies have intimated they might cap usage at 100 to 250 gigabytes. The average person surfing the net, opening e-mails and looking at the attached Lolcats pictures would never come near those ceilings, but would the "free" movies on P2P sites seem so attractive if you had to pay $10 for the extra bandwith to grab them? Excuse me, I've got to go dust off my VCR.