Time Warner Cable to Test Internet Caps in Texas

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Time Warner Cable is targeting the small number of subscribers who eat up most of its Internet bandwidth, with plans to test a new tiered pricing structure for broadband access later this year in Beaumont, Texas, that will charge customers based on how much data they download.
The operator plans to offer four different packages that would cap monthly data downloads at 5, 10, 20 or 40 Gigabytes, according to Time Warner Cable spokesman Alex Dudley. As of yet, there’s no unlimited option planned for the trial. Pricing has not been determined for the tiers, he said.

The tiered pricing would apply only to new customers, not existing ones. If customers exceed their data-download limit, they will be charged additional per-gigabyte fees. “It’s kind of like a cell phone plan,” Dudley said.

The Beaumont system provides service to around 90,000 voice, video and data subscribers in 15 towns. In the region, the operator currently offers unlimited-usage broadband service for $44.95 to cable TV customers and $54.95 to non-TV subscribers.

The goal of the trial is to improve overall network performance by setting usage limits for the 5% of subscribers who use more than 50% of total network bandwidth, Dudley said. “A very small number of users is using an incredibly large percentage of the bandwidth,” he said.

Time Warner Cable has not determined when it will initiate the test, according to Dudley, except that it likely will be sometime in the second quarter.

Some cable operators already set limits on the maximum amount of data subscribers can download.

Cox Communications, for example, caps downloads at 40 Gbytes downstream and uploads at 10 Gbytes upstream per month for its “preferred”

broadband package

, and at 60 Gbytes down and 15 Gbytes up for the “premier” plan.

Comcast’s policy is to issue warnings to users who consume too much bandwidth. While it does not define data thresholds, Comcast has said a subscriber who downloads more than 1,000 songs per day would

trigger a warning to cut back on usage

.

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