Blog Post

It's Captastic! Cable One Embraces Congestion Pricing

[qi:004] Cable One, a cable provider serving 720,000 customers in 19 states, has apparently brought congestion pricing for broadband access to the U.S., according to a post over at DSLReports. Such pricing plans limit speeds at certain times based on the assumption that the network will have more traffic during specific hours of the day. It’s similar to the traffic management plans in various cities that require commuters to pay more to enter a locale during certain times.

A few European ISPs have played around with congestion pricing, offering certain services or speeds based on the time of day, and most in the wireless industry think congestion pricing is the way to go, but it’s still relatively rare. BT recently got in trouble with subscribers for slowing its speeds on video between the hours of 5 p.m. and midnight. Overall, these pricing changes and caps are both a way to manage traffic and increase revenue for ISPs. Last year, I talked about the use of different tiers, caps and usage policies in determining pricing with Kurt Dobbins, the chief technology officer of IP services at Arbor Networks, and he said:

Carriers are all seeing a fundamental growth in traffic, and very few of them are seeing the equivalent growth in subscriber acquisition, so they’re spending billions more on bandwidth capacity but are seeing no new revenue…This is an answer to how they will grow revenue.

Cable One’s charts show that the provider is both throttling speeds between 4 p.m. and midnight (offering “standard” speeds that are about half of the advertised “extended” speeds) and is limiting the amount of data a user can download between noon and midnight. Basically, the all-you-can eat broadband buffer is only open at advertised speeds between midnight and noon. After that, you’re stuck watching what you download — and for eight hours, surfing at half speed.

There are two problems with this plan, beyond the main issue that it is consumption-based and a threat to innovation. First, instead of throttling back speeds when the network is actually congested as Comcast does, it assumes congestion all the time. If that’s the case, then a network upgrade or at least a few node splits may be in order.

Second, it’s terrible marketing. This is a confusing plan for any consumer. I would say it’s a revenue grab, but instead of charging overage fees when users download more than they are supposed to, Cable One says it will terminate the account. If it wants to implement a plan like this it should take a page from wireless carriers, and create packages with easy-to-understand names that help consumers figure out what they can and can’t do on their broadband connection. My suggestions include, “I Can’t Believe It’s Broadband” and “Get One-Half the Speeds, One-Third of the Day!” Readers, feel free to submit your own.


10 Responses to “It's Captastic! Cable One Embraces Congestion Pricing”

  1. i’m on Cableone. i’ve read their terms quite a few times and its my understanding that the daily cap is 3GB/day (total of both up and down) for the 5mb/500kb speed and 5GB/day for the 10mb/1mb speed.

    plus, you have data limits of 2.2GB down and 225MB up(in the 5mb plan) for the noon to midnight time frame. if you exceed this, then your speed is cut in half from 4PM to midnight.

    for 10mb plan, its 4.5GB/ 450MB during the noon to midnight time frame.

    so its two caps, two caps, two caps in one!!

    a daily cap and a noon to midnight cap.

    isn’t Freedom great!

  2. Any of you guys know what Cable One is charging for their broadband service. I was trying to see how they compare to others and if their rates for “extended & standard” was any better/worse than “normal” High Speed Internet pricing.


    • Unfortunately, Net Neutrality will not prohibit Internet Overcharging schemes like this. We need to pass Rep. Eric Massa’s Broadband Internet Fairness Act (HR 2902). You can read more about this legislation here:

      We’ve also written up Cable ONE on Stop the Cap!, which is dedicated to stopping Internet Overcharging schemes wherever they show up.

      We -do- need Net Neutrality protection passed as well. Interestingly, the Washington Post, which has been slamming Net Neutrality in repeated articles for at least the last two weeks, just happens to OWN Cable ONE. Funny how they forgot to mention their conflict of interest in their editorials on Net Neutrality.

      We’re still in the fight and watching. The BS Brigade of groups fighting against consumer interests are assembling, including the atrocious Broadband for America (Corporate Interests). We just completed a major expose on all 100+ members, which are infested from floor to ceiling with telecommunications executives, board members, and the equipment manufacturers that supply them.

      Check this out:

    • Sorry, Todd, you got it wrong. Passing Net Neutrality will cause *more* of the above pricing schemes. If providers can’t apply QoS to their network, their only choice will be to implement caps and tiered data plans. Be careful what you wish for.

      • Net Neutrality would eliminate the ISPs ability to play the “we are not a utility, but we are a utility” game.

        Example: Your local electric company is prohibited from singling out certain people who use a lot of electricity and charging them a higher rate – beyond illegal. Electric companies must answer to QoS, but there are no caps and no tiered pricing.