January 17, 2008 |
Before I begin detailing the latest travesty in high-speed highway robbery, I need to disclose that I have been a Time Warner high-speed customer since they first did a beta program in my area. I remained loyal even when DSL arrived, for far less money than what I pay for my high-speed cable connection. And I've encouraged countless others to ditch their dial-up to move to Time Warner's services.
Hopefully, my long history as an evangelist of their services will explain why I was so outraged this morning to read that Time Warner will be testing a new tiered pricing plan in Texas later this year. The pricing will leave the flat-rate pricing behind and instead, charge customers based on their bandwidth usage. Their claim is that 5% of a customer base can account for up to 50% of the network capacity, and those power users should pay.
Now, let's break this down into who exactly is going to be charged. If you are someone who prefers to download movies to rent via Amazon Unbox or the new Apple service, you are probably going to be in that 5%. If you download a lot of music from iTunes, say hello to your movie buddies in the previous category, because you'll also be joining them in the high-paying club. And please, let's hope you aren't a gamer, because you may have your Xbox (like I do), your Wii (like I do), and any PC networked games also drawing a ton of bandwidth. I shudder to think of what an hour in Second Life might result in with regard to charges.
Viewing videos (hi, YouTube addicts!), any any streaming video (anyone else who likes to catch up on shows like Heroes online?) or audio (Internet radio? I listen to my local alternative station on my laptop because I can't get a decent signal on my receiver) will also incur extra charges.
In other words, just about anything you do, from uploading pictures to Geni for your family tree, or backing up your hard drive online (like I do with Amazon's S3 service via Jungle Disk) are going to cost you.
Here's where Time Warner shoots themselves in the foot, though. How much Warner Bros. content is being downloaded? How many movies rented or purchased? Music purchased? I'm sure that this is supposed to be a move like that of Comcast to corral the folks using BitTorrent to download bootlegged content, but if it's going to cost me that much extra to download the latest and greatest White Stripes album? Odds are I'm not going to be willing to pay the bandwidth surcharge on top of the cost of the album.
I'm sure there are people out there who don't do much more than email, but I'm willing to bet that if you are already willing to fork over the extra cost of high-speed vs. dial-up, then you are already doing a little bit more online than your basic 1995 web use. Here's hoping that the Texas customers revolt and switch over to DSL in protest so Time Warner gets the message that more than just their cable arm will lose money in the long-run if they move to this type of pricing. As for me, well, I'll be calling Verizon weekly about a date for my area to be getting FIOS.