Time Warner to add Internet meters for S.A. By David Saleh Rauf
When Bryan Lee wants to see just how much bandwidth his Internet connection gobbles up, he logs on to a Web site that tracks his usage on a daily basis.
The 31-year-old project manager for a Dallas-based software company is one of Time Warner
's proverbial guinea pigs in the cable company's ongoing test of metered service in Southeast Texas.
Before moving to Lumberton, a small town about 12 miles north of Beaumont, he enjoyed unfettered downloads. Nowadays, his monthly usage is capped at 40 gigs. And there's an extra incentive in place to make sure he's keeping downloads and video streams in check: overage fees.
“I look at the meter probably once a week,” he said. “It really changes your mind-set with this whole overages thing. You become fearful of going on the Internet.”
After bowing to backlash from customers and Congress over plans to change pricing for Internet usage, Time Warner
Cable is moving forward with plans to outfit customers in San Antonio and three other markets with similar measurement tools.
The cable company is hoping the “gas gauges” will make it easier to eventually try again at implementing a billing structure that charges customers varying rates based on Internet usage.
For now, the city's largest Internet and cable provider is mum on the measurement technology that it says is part of an overall “education” strategy. A Time Warner
spokesman recently declined to provide details on how the meters will work or when they could arrive in the Alamo City.
But Lee says customers in the Beaumont area were provided with an account to the company's “self care” Web site. Once logged in, customers can navigate the site to check daily usage, measured with bar graphs, and to see how many gigs they have left before overages kick in. The meter does not provide information about individual downloads, Lee said.
Critics of the bill-by-the-byte business model say bandwidth caps are a strategy to deter users from accessing high-definition video streams that can detract from Time Warner
's main source of revenue: cable subscriptions. But supporters say something has to be done to prevent a small group of heavy users from slowing the Internet experience for everyone else. Metered billing, they say, is a solution to that problem.
“There is no magic to understanding that you can't have an all-you-can-eat buffet if one person is taking all the food,” said Steve Effros, a telecom analyst and former president of the Cable Telecommunications Association. “Most people are going to find they don't need unlimited use.” Time Warner to add Internet meters for S.A.