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Summary:

When it comes to trialing its metered broadband service, Time Warner Cable’s choice to do so in the tech-savvy city of Austin, Texas, was no accident. And residents may not be able to do much about it. According to TWC spokesman Jeff Simmermon, Austin’s dedication to […]

When it comes to trialing its metered broadband service, Time Warner Cable’s choice to do so in the tech-savvy city of Austin, Texas, was no accident. And residents may not be able to do much about it.

According to TWC spokesman Jeff Simmermon, Austin’s dedication to all things digital was precisely why it was chosen as one of four cities where the company plans to trial consumption-based broadband plans, which range from 5 GB to 40 GB per month (TWC says it has plans for a 100 GB-per-month tier as well). “Austin is a passionate and tech-savvy city, and the spirit that we’re approaching this (metered broadband) test with is that if it’s going to work, it has to work in a tech-savvy market where the use patterns are different,” he told me.

So far, Austin isn’t impressed, but since the local cable franchise it grants only deals with video, there may not be much it can do. Chip Rosenthal, one of seven commissioners on the City of Austin’s Technology and Telecommunications Commission (a strictly advisory body), hopes that concerned citizens will show up at the meeting it’s holding at City Hall this Wednesday and talk about metered broadband. He wants to get the metered bandwidth issue added to the agenda of the commission’s May meeting as well.

But local efforts aside, Rosenthal says Austin will have to take a national approach, either through Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, or through a lawsuit to prevent or influence the deployment of metered broadband. “The city has much greater national influence than you or I as individuals, ” Rosenthal said.

He’s right, but for those wanting to express their individual disdain, here’s an online petition put forth by a local citizen. As for the city, it’s encouraging to note that within two days of the story breaking, two of the city’s three five mayoral candidates issued statements questioning such caps. One noted that downloading the first season of my hometown’s favorite TV show, “Friday Night Lights,” would require almost 31 GB and would subsequently put people in danger of violating the current top-tier cap of 40 GB. “Friday Night Lights” isn’t just about Texas football, it’s also shot in town, and an important showcase for film production here in Austin.

Austin is not a city that takes its broadband lightly. It’s home to supercomputers, digital media studios and online gaming companies. Thanks to that, it’s now a microcosm for a battle against consumption-based broadband attempts around the country. If metered broadband works in Austin, then it can work anywhere — even in your hometown.

  1. The story is that TWC wants to see if metering “works” in Austin. Curious — if that means “succeeds,” then what are TWC’s conditions for success? An acceptably low level of objection and opposition from the public?

    They imply that at some point they will make a go/no-go decision about metering, but they seem pretty coy about what they’ll base the decision on.

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  2. …I wonder how long they are going to have this ‘test’ go on? A year? Two? Forever?

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  3. Stacey,

    This is the kind of journalism that makes a difference – thank you.

    Per my last comment on your first post concerning Time Warner’s bandwidth caps, have you been at all able to find a connection, if any, between the aggressive roll-out of the 2-year contract lock in and these major service-plan changes/reductions??

    Don’t stop digging – you’re almost there I think :)

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  4. Smart, now lets show them that geeks just wont bite on the concept of metered broadband and make their test a failure.

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    1. Stacey Higginbotham Tuesday, April 7, 2009

      I don’t get Grande in my area, not do I get U-verse. It’s a cap or DSL for me, and Time Warner knows it.

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      1. Look into Earthlink in Austin…share TW’s last mile but they have their own internet connectivity and (at the moment) have no announced plans for bandwidth caps. This move by TW might single-handedly be responsible for doubling Earthlink’s subscriber base in Austin by the end of the year LOL.

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      2. I just spoke to an Earthlink agent about whether my Earthlink re-branded Time Warner cable will be exempt from the metering/capping. IT WILL NOT BE.

        I am so hoping Grande rolls t my neighborhood in the next six months.

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  5. The caps are too low and are extremely anti competitive! Especially when compared to Comcast’s current 250 GB, which is very fair!

    The reality is caps make economic sense as more and more ppl drop their cable TV for an Internet TV solution (connect Mac Mini to LCD TV use a wireless hand-held mouse (Gyration works good) for a remote).

    Those these types of caps TWC has will stall the Internet TV market. They definitely need their asses handed to them for such low caps and should be force to provide caps equal to what Comcast provides!

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  6. Austin is a funny little town. I lived there for 18 years, mainly in the era before it adopted this fantasy that it was the center of the tech universe – in those days Austin was mainly about sex, drugs, and music – but the dynamics are pretty much the same. It’s a pretentious little burg.

    The problem that broadband carriers have with pricing stems from the undeniable fact that a small fraction of users consume the lion’s share of the bandwidth, and the rest (over 99%) are effectively subsidizing them. The TWC experiment will show that the typical user gets better performance for the money when the bandwidth hogs are throttled. There will be a lot of whining from the faux technologists who dominate the net neutrality debate, but the mainstream user will see a noticeable improvement in his web access.

    And as to the crazy notion that FNL takes 31 GB/episode to download, that tells you all you need to know about Austin Activism – all heat and no light. Watch it on Hulu and you’ll consume no more than 1 or maybe 2 GB/episode. It’s not like Hulu is raw Blu-Ray, for heaven’s sake. And for the record, the typical Austinite looks more like Landry than like Lyla.

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    1. Richard, the quote reads “downloading the *first season* of my hometown’s favorite TV show, “Friday Night Lights,” would require almost 31 GB.” That’s a whole season, not an episode.

      No idea why you used this issue as a launching pad for a diatribe about Austin’s tech-savviness, but you may want to shore up your own reading comprehension before you decry others for being “all heat and no light.”

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      1. Did he say season instead of episode? But he’s still off the mark. People who would like to download the first season of the Texas religion show “Friday Night Lights” can check out its size and shape on Mininova, the sweet piracy enabler:

        http://www.mininova.org/tor/2435338

        You’ll see that you get 22 hrs of programming for less than 8 GB. This is not a matter of opinion.

        I tend to agree that a 40 GB/mo cap is a bit restrictive for heavy users, but it not actually going to effect most people. The hue and cry over this issue on the web is larger than the actual public reaction is going to be in real life.

        You’ll see.

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    2. Richard, do you work for TW Cable?

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    3. Richard Bennett: Malarky. Nonsense. RR is profitable for TW. Very profitable. Performance is fine. Incremental performance (bandwidth) costs TW very nearly nothing. Providing the basic 2-4 Mb/sec represents 99.9+% of their cost. The “hogs” add -very- little incremental cost and have -very- little, if any, perceivable impact on performance. In any case, the real “hogs” that use multiple hundreds of Gigs per month can be -easily- identified and either throttled or hugely billed.

      If TW was willing to fully open up it’s records it would be clear that truly less than a HANDFUL of users fall into the “hog” category. This is a money grab on TW’s part pure and simple. They should be regulated or the franchise should be opened up to -true- cable competition. Just because TW, or Cox, or Cablevision or any of them “got there first” shouldn’t mean that the citizens of an entire region should be held hostage forever to a monopoly in cable service.

      This stinks real bad. We have to do something about the monopoly of cable service. Austin is a good place to start. It is a funny “little” town? A smart -city- of 680,000 and a million metro is a good place to start.

      Uncle Ron

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    4. Uh, @Richard Bennett… have you bothered to do your own math? How many episodes are in a season?? 1-2 GB/episode would put you at 12-24 GB for a 12-episode season and 24-48 GB for a 24 episode season. Under most of TW’s new plans, this alone might cost you around $15-30. For ONE season of one series.

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    5. Really? Better performance? I bet they’ll notice even much better performance when Time Warner (or any company that follows suit) stops overselling their services (at least how it’s currently done). This is not a phone service, and certainly not cable TV with which it may work near infinitely. Broadband internet is advertised as always on. Last time I saw limits on bandwidth use was in the early-mid 1990s, and it was in a “third world” country.

      The less savvy consumers (over 99% as you say) subsidize the service? Well, whose fault is it? Why is Time Warner relying on their unused bandwidth to provide the “geeks” with the advertised service? In fact, will Time Warner rebate them for the unused bandwidth if they implement metering? They’re just adding insult to injury by metering broadband. I’m sure the “geeks” won’t put up with such practices.

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  7. [...] View original here:  Time Warner Cable Says It Singled Out Austin’s Geeks [...]

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  8. [...] a statement released this afternoon by TWC Chief Operating Officer Landel Hobbs. As it deals with the backlash generated by its expansion of tiered broadband trials to four new cities, among them San Antonio and Austin, Texas, the cable company is getting its [...]

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  9. Well Richard has sure taken the bait hook line and sinker. This has nothing to do with “bandwidth hogs”. It has EVERYTHING to do with TWC taking the RIAA way out to try and kill video over the internet. You’ll notice that only TWC and Comcast have talked about bandwidth caps as the DSL providers don’t have video to protect. I also read another article today about DOCSIS 3 and how the cable companies could be offering 10 times as fast bandwidth for $100 (installation costs) per house modem included. This is the same technology Japan is using. By contrast Verizon is spending $875 per house for it’s FIOS. So the technology is there to offer MUCH more bandwidth at a very low capital expense to the cable companies – so why haven’t they done it yet? Same reason they are talking about the caps – they don’t want people to have enough bandwidth to enable video over the net.

    Now the big question is what are WE the people going to do about it????

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    1. Japan uses a little DOCSIS 3, but a lot more VDSL and fiber. I read Saul Hansell’s blog post too.

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