Updated throughout with confirmation, comment from Time Warner: Time Warner Cable, which last month announced plans to expand its metered broadband trials to four more cities, today backed away from its controversial efforts to price broadband based on consumption, including in the city of Rochester, N.Y., according to a local television station. Rochester’s ABC affiliate reports that Sen. Charles Schumer of New York spoke with Time Warner Cable and convinced the company to stop using Rochester as a test market. Austin, Beaumont and San Antonio, Texas, as well as Greensboro, N.C. will also be spared metering. The story also says — and the company has confirmed — that Time Warner Cable “will shelve plans for a tiered pricing system for Internet use.”
I’ve reached out to Time Warner for its side of the story, in particular to see if it’s backing off on consumption-based broadband everywhere. Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Officer Glenn Britt said in a statement:
“It is clear from the public response over the last two weeks that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about our plans to roll out additional tests on consumption based billing. As a result, we will not proceed with implementation of additional tests until further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met. While we continue to believe that consumption based billing may be the best pricing plan for consumers, we want to do everything we can to inform our customers of our plans and have the benefit of their views as part of our testing process.”
If federal political pressure is what it takes to get the cable company to back off, maybe my fellow Texans in San Antonio and Austin, who are also facing the tiered broadband trials, need to get on the horn with Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Baily Hutchison. Although given that both of them have raised campaign funds from AT&T and Time Warner Cable, they’re less likely to stand in the way of any sort of metered broadband plan.
Time Warner says they will also offer customers a meter so they can understand their broadband consumption. If, as Time Warner says, a full 30 percent of their customers use a mere 1 GB per month, then showing them that information would help the cable company gain some allies before its next attempt to push consumption-based pricing. Without any individual consumption information, and a lack of clear argument from Time Warner as to why this plan was about more than boosting its bottom line, it was hard to find people who supported Time Warner’s tiers.
The Internet, and it’s ability to bring people together and share information, was so integral to building the level of outrage needed to attract federal attention and get Time Warner to halt its plans. Ironically, it was that same Internet that Time Warner was attempting to choke with pricing plans that would make it much more expensive to access it.