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All-You-Can-Eat Broadband Is Dead: Time Warner to Charge by the Byte

Illustration for article titled All-You-Can-Eat Broadband Is Dead: Time Warner to Charge by the Byte

Reason number 149 I won't move to Texas: Time Warner confirmed it'll be testing a new pricing plan in Beaumont that's based on how much bandwidth you eat up. That's right, hard caps. Totally made-up example, since they haven't released details on the package tiers: Pay $50 a month for 500 gigs, and if you consume more, get slapped with probably obscene overage fees.

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Supposedly, consumption-based billing is aimed at all you assholes downloading movies from BitTorrent—"heavy users of large downloads," the purported 5 percent that swallows "up to 50 percent of network capacity" in order to improve network performance. But this is, at least partially, BS.

Everybody is using more bandwidth than ever, and that is going to continue ramping up with services like Netflix and iTunes that keep pushing these "large downloads" into the mainstream. So, it might only hit a small percentage of users really hard right now, but soon enough it'll be hitting everybody, which is the real point.

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At the same time, ISPs and telcos are lobbying hard against network neutrality, largely so they can slap the content providers themselves with higher costs for equal priority on the network with the ISP's own services. In other words, they're reaching into the cookie jar with both hands—from the top, and a hole they're trying to cut into the bottom.

For now, Time Warner's plan will only affect new users starting sometime in the next couple of months, and they actually give you tools to monitor your data diet, but if there isn't a total revolt and pillaging of their home office, expect them to roll it out nationally and other providers to follow suit. [AP/Wired]

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DISCUSSION

With all the new services (Netflix unlimited, iTunes Rentals, Hulu.com, Amazon MP3s, slingbox), bandwidth consumption is going to rise rapidly. But as bandwidth consuming services improve, traditional services will become less relevant. For instance, why pay for a premium channel cable television package (HBO, Showtime, Starz, ect), when the same movies are included with a Netflix subscription — consumers with a media budget will likely drop larger television packages with channels they don't watch, in favor of higher amounts of bandwidth to access the content they do watch. Consumers will probably spend the same amount of money on media consumption; if TW wants to make the internet more expensive, it will probably come at the expense of their own television division, or for that matter, Time Warner DVD / Blu Ray division.