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January 17, 2008

TWC To Test Bandwidth Caps for Heavy Users

Time Warner Cable has confirmed that it is planning to test bandwidth caps for residential Internet access customers.  From Time Warner's perspective, the cap will affect only 5% of customers.  These individuals are most likely to use P2P services at high levels.  Time Warner hasn't given any details about the size of the limits.  Most U.S. ISPs have a flat fee for access arrangement, with pricing based on speed tiers rather than use.  Network operators have always worried about whether file sharing (illegal or otherwise) will overwhelm the network, though it seems not to have done this so far.  One question this test will raise is how caps will affect legitimate movie download services now that a trend is developing for low cost subscription models.  And what happens when high definition downloads become the norm when files can get as large as 20 gigs or more.  The tier idea raises another sticky issue.  Will caps become another way to place a toll on preferred entertainment sources via the web?

There is another issue that comes out of this.  If this is an attempt to cut down illegal file trades over the network, then does charging for the over and above bandwidth for this purpose somehow raise an argument that the P2P use becomes legitimate?  Copyright infringement is copyright infringement, of course.  But will paying more for additional bandwidth suggest that Time Warner will not ask questions once they get their money?  And what will the FCC do about this model now that they've surprisingly shown interest in Comcast's network management practices?  Stay tuned.

January 17, 2008 | Permalink

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