Bandwidth metering: Is Time Warner just the beginning?

Time Warner launches new bandwidth metering experiment. The worry is the cost of Internet access may rise. Bandwidth hogs beware.


Time Warner launches new bandwidth metering experiment. The worry is the cost of Internet access may rise. Bandwidth hogs beware.


The blogosphere has worked itself into a panic about Time Warner Cable's new bandwidth metering experiment. There is a lot of fear that this is going to drive up the cost of Internet service for average users and businesses, or worse, force them to monitor and curtail some of their Internet downloading habits.

I was chatting with my colleague Larry Dignan about this earlier today and we were both perplexed about why people were getting so hyper about this. After all, most of them will still have the choice of changing ISPs to keep unlimited plans, at least for the short term. The ultimate goal for Time Warner is to exercise control over ultra-heavy downloaders, who hog the network's resources while still paying the same flat rate as everyone else.

Larry writes:

"I must be missing something here, because I don't see a lot to get wound up about. For starters, Time Warner Cable is doing a trial that has been outlined since January. It's a small experiment for new customers. And the company is looking to ditch bandwidth hogs that are costing it money. If all the trial does is convince the P2P downloaders to find a new network, Time Warner Cable will have done its job."

This will not affect average users. In fact, some of them will end paying less in a tiered system for metered bandwidth. For example, my mother-in-law and my grandfather could do a cheaper, lower-tiered service like Time Warner's 768k of bandwidth and a 5 gigabyte/month cap because they primarily use the Internet for e-mail, Web surfing, and viewing photos of their grandchildren.

This also won't affect most businesses, who already deal with bandwidth metering and caps on leased lines such as T1s and DS3s. Small businesses that use Cable and DSL lines will likely be able to get bandwidth and gigabyte rates that are similar to today's business rates (often $100-$150 per month), and most won't pay anything above that if they manage their IT assets responsibly (download updates centrally, don't allow rogue programs to constantly hog Internet bandwidth, etc.).

Meanwhile, bandwidth hogs who take up more than their fair share of the pipes and slow things down for everyone else will become economically dis-incented to keep using up so much of the broadband pipe.

So, yes, the end of "unlimited Internet bandwidth" could be coming, but it is not nearly as nefarious as it may sound from the chatter in the blogosphere.


Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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