Time Warner Cable Inc said on Wednesday it is planning a trial to bill high-speed Internet subscribers based on their amount of usage rather than a flat fee, the standard industry practice.
The second largest U.S. cable operator said it will test consumption-based billing with subscribers in Beaumont, Texas later this year as a part of a strategy to help reduce congestion of its network by a minority of consumers who pay the same monthly fee as light users.
The company believes the billing system will impact only heavy users, who account for around 5 percent of all customers but typically use more than half of the total network bandwidth, according to a company spokesman.
Under the proposed scheme, new customers will be able to choose from a couple of different plans with varying bandwidth caps. They'll be given online tools to monitor usage and will be able to upgrade to the next higher tier of service to avoid charges for exceeding their monthly bandwidth limit. If the trial works well, Time Warner would then roll out bandwidth caps to current customers: "We will use the results of the trial to evaluate results for possible future nationwide rollouts," reads the memo.
Bandwidth caps have been a sore subject for some users who have found themselves bumping into mysterious, undefined limits. This past fall, a number of Comcast subscribers complained that their service was cut off after having reached Comcast's bandwidth limit. The problem is that Comcast (and other ISPs) do not publicize what limits they have in place. Comcast's Acceptable Use Policy, for instance, offers users only a vague warning against "generating levels of traffic sufficient to impede others' ability to send or retrieve information."