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Bandwidth Meters on the Way


The frenzy over bandwidth caps reached a fevered pitch recently in response to news that Time Warner Cable was expanding trials beyond Beaumont Texas. Consumer outrage sparked responses from operators and the NCTA, as well as various politicians. Ultimately, Time Warner has decided to shelve its plan for metered billing, at least until it’s had “further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met.”

Arguments for and against bandwidth caps aside, Time Warner is moving forward with one very smart plan. It’s turning more attention to getting a reliable bandwidth meter to market so that subscribers can actually tell how much bandwidth they use. This is critical. Even though public analyses like the recent one done by Stacey Higginbotham  over at GigaOM help clarify the relative value of bandwidth, nothing could make the situation clearer than providing real-time usage information. Once these meters are widely available, I imagine we’ll see wide usage comparisons from data collected in forums, on Twitter, and via other online communication tools. Then not only will consumers be able to see how much bandwidth they need for their own Internet habits, but also what patterns exist across the larger Internet population.

2 Responses

  1. While, as you know, I have generally have no problems with tiered and/or metered pricing so long as there is REAL competition in a market – something that is rare where most markets are wink, wink, nod, nod duopolies.

    I’d rather pay-per byte if we are going that way. Fixed fees per byte/gig wouuld rid the world of the massive overages the telco’s rely on now and what the cableco’s seem to crave.

    My other BIG concern is that this model needs to factor in the natrual growth in broadband requirements over time. 10 years ago I likely would have used more than a Gig a month. Up to a year ago i would not have used more than, say, 30 Gigs per month. But as I have purchased Apple TV, have a PS3 and Xbox 360, and a half dozen PC’s hanging off my networ, I’m now routinely hitting 100 Gigs a month.

    Pricing needs to reflect the natural increases over time while also factoring that the costs to the operators is also DRASTICALLY decreasing over time.

    My fear, of course, is that we’ll be hit with static tiers at exorbitant prices that does not reflect the cost to the provider, that reflects their entrenched interests to keep users from using competitive products with the decades old, duopolistic wink, wink,nod, nod ‘competitive’ pricing keeping prices lock-step in line across the market.

    I’m not a fan or regulation, but so long as broadband in each market is controlled by duopolies I fear regulation with yearly pricing reviews is the only way consumers can be fairly protected from the price gouging habits of the cablecos/telcos going forward.


  2. Dale- I agree on the importance of factoring in growth. Don’t think there’s a cut-and-dry approach for doing this, but I do think we need expert, independent advisers working on the appropriate solution.

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