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Time Warner Cables hopes to weed out excess usage with new billing system

When it comes to high-speed Internet, most people take for granted that their flat monthly fee will provide all the bandwidth needed for endless downloading.

Time Warner Cable (TWC), on the other hand, doesn't quite see things that way. Just as Best Buy labeled its bargain-minded customers as "Devil Customers," TWC has its own subset of customers that take the "all you can eat" approach to Internet access.

In order to discourage bandwidth gorging, TWC will trial a new billing system patterned after regular household utilities that we all have become familiar with. Like gas, water and electric bills, TWC will charge customers based on their usage instead of a flat fee.

The move should help TWC weed out the five percent of its customers which it says horde over fifty percent of total network bandwidth.

TWC warns that the network congestions problems will only get worse as more media content is made available online. People today are taking advantage of their high-speed Internet connections to download movies and television shows -- and we can't forget users who often frequent P2P and torrent sites to share/download content.

"Largely, people won't notice the difference," said a spokesman for TWC. "We don't want customers to feel they're getting less for more."

TWC will first roll out a trial of the new billing system in Beaumont, Texas later this year. If the tests are successful, TWC may apply the new billing scheme to all of its 7.4 million residential subscribers around the country.

Time Warner Cable isn't the first company that has attempted to curtail a small minority of its customers from hogging network bandwidth using P2P services like BitTorrent. Comcast chose the unsavory route of throttling bandwidth for greedy customers using P2P software. Unfortunately, Comcast's actions also hampered legitimate users of software like Lotus Notes.

Comcast's actions resulted in class-action lawsuit from customers and an official investigation by the FCC.



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It's just capitalism
By SYR on 1/18/2008 11:32:05 AM , Rating: 2
Ignoring whatever excuses TW makes for its actions, they're simply exhibiting the logical behavior of a for-profit enterprise -- looking for ways to increase revenue while minimizing expense. They do what they perceive to be in their (and their stockholders') best interests. Can't really blame them for that.

Now, as consumers, we would obviously prefer that internet service be handled as a public utility -- and managed to provide best service rather than best profit. This would actually be quite simple, just throttle everyone's transmissions in real time so that they get a proportioned share of the available instantaneous bandwidth. If only one user is active, he gets the whole pipe to himself. If there are 1000 people executing simultaneous transmissions, each gets 1/1000 of the pipe. No one could hog anything and there would be no such thing as "excessive" usage. Tiered pricing would make no sense in such an environment.

So here's the real question: Do you get a "better" overall result by letting profit-motivated companies provide the service or by setting up a regulated utility. I personally think that the majority of people would be better served by a properly regulated monopoly while the profit-driven system tends to work better for relatively wealthier customers and worse for relatively poorer customers.




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