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Breaking News: Alex Dudley From Time Warner Claims Earthlink Customers Will Be Capped

Phillip Dampier April 7, 2009 Issues 27 Comments

Another day, a new story.

It’s always nice when a vice president of public relations for Time Warner decides to speak for Earthlink. Of course, Earthlink itself has not been doing any speaking themselves on the corporate level despite several attempts to reach them.

Earthlink forced to cap its service because Time Warner said so?

Earthlink forced to cap its service because Time Warner said so?

Brad, one of our regular readers, has been engaged in an e-mail back and forth with the Time Warner crowd trying to sell the “benefits” of their Internet rationing plan, and finally got a one sentence answer to a question he had to raise repeatedly.

Q. Are the caps going to apply to Earthlink service riding your infrastructure?

A. “Earthlink customers will be included.”

Earthlink customer service agents have insisted Earthlink was not going to cap their service, but as we indicated last week, customer service representatives are only reading from instructions handed down by their bosses.  We wanted to receive direct confirmation from Earthlink before we could definitively assure our readers on the question of caps with this alternative provider.

If Earthlink has their own contract for a provisioned level of service from Time Warner, it will be interesting to see if there is any push back from Earthlink.  The presence of Earthlink on Time Warner’s network came about from a settlement with the federal government in 2000.  Under the terms of the settlement, Earthlink was supposed to be granted the freedom to set its own pricing tiers.  The New York Times reported on the agreement and its parameters.

After the AOL and Time Warner merger deal, the companies said they would allow competition on Time Warner’s cable systems. But rivals complained that the terms they offered in initial discussions were unusually harsh. For example, the companies demanded that other companies not price high-speed access lower than AOL Time Warner’s own service.

Mr. Betty of Earthlink said that Time Warner had eliminated many of those restrictions.

Under the proposed agreement, he said, Earthlink can buy high-speed access from Time Warner and resell it to Earthlink customers at any price it chooses on its own bill. In reality, he said, that Earthlink’s service will probably cost about the $40 a month that Time Warner now charges for Road Runner.

Interestingly, with Mr. Dudley now apparently speaking on behalf of Earthlink, this may open a new question that the Federal Trade Commission may want to answer.  If Earthlink is allowed to set its own pricing, why is Time Warner now telling customers Earthlink will be capping?

While this news is not an absolute confirmation of Earthlink’s policy going forward, I’d say it rings warning bells for customers who absolutely need cap-free Internet access.  Frontier under a Price Protection Agreement is looking more and more like the safest bet in Rochester, and we’re still compiling a list of alternate providers in other affected cities.

Meanwhile, customers of Earthlink might want to go to Earthlink’s website and conduct a “support chat session” and ask them again about caps, capture the text from representatives insisting there isn’t any, and hang on to them.  It may provide some useful leverage later on, and StoptheCap! would like to document this whole sordid affair.  Earthlink themselves may have a case before the FTC if their original agreement is now being shown to be worthless in practice.

As the usage cap is many months away from being implemented, you can still drop Road Runner and hop onto Earthlink for the next six months and pay $29.95 a month for service, which will save you at least $10 a month, and feel the satisfaction of not supporting Road Runner or Time Warner’s price gouging.

We will continue to ask Earthlink corporate officials to comment.

Currently there are 27 comments on this Article:

  1. Dan says:

    I agree that Frontier is now looking like the most viable option for many people. However, until they allow us to sign up for DSL without phone service, it won’t work for many people. I think Frontier may need to take the next step. With the dawn of VOIP making phone service not as necessary, what a great opportunity this is to begin dumping a dead industry and moving their company forward. I’d love to switch to Frontier, but I’m not about to sign up for home phone service that I’ll never need or use.

  2. phil says:

    You do not need to sign up for home phone service from Frontier to obtain DSL. Check our article, Road Runner is For the Birds…. You can purchase DSL service and skip the phone line.

  3. grant says:

    Ironically I jumped from Roadrunner to Earthlink a few weeks ago when my introductory rate expired and jumped to $49.99 (I don’t do cable).

    Though Earthlink advertised 7MBs speed I actually retained my 10MBs RR speed. And as an added bonus, got usenet again.

  4. Ron says:

    I switched to Earthlink a day or two after the story first hit Rochester about Time Warner. I was told something different from Earthlink then what I found out today.

    Ok. Apparently Time Warner is in complete control of Earthlink by the looks of it. Here is my Live Chat with Earthlink. The only thing I did was take my email address out and replace it with the word “Me” for obvious spam preventing reasons.

    Also it took them a lot longer this time to actually respond to a Live Chat Request.

    —————————————–
    Chat InformationWelcome to Earthlink LiveChat. Your chat session will begin shortly. Feel free to begin typing your question.

    Chat InformationPlease hold for an agent. While you are waiting, please feel free to begin typing your issue in the box below. Try to be as descriptive as possible. Once an agent is assigned to the chat, click SEND to transmit what you have typed.

    Chat InformationPlease hold for an agent. While you are waiting, please feel free to begin typing your issue in the box below. Try to be as descriptive as possible. Once an agent is assigned to the chat, click SEND to transmit what you have typed.

    Chat Information’Sachi G’ says: Thank you for contacting EarthLink LiveChat, how may I help you today?

    Me: Hello. I am confused. I was told that Earthlink set its own pricing due to the court case but Time Warner is now saying they set your prices and that their will be a tiered pricing system and metered bandwidth?

    Sachi G: I will assist you in providing the information

    Me: Thank you.

    Sachi G: The billing of the service is taken care by Time Warner and we will not be bill for the service

    Me: So they set the price?

    Sachi G: We only provide the service and the pricing and billing is taken care by them

    Me: I wasn’t aware of that. I thought they couldn’t do that because of that court case. Well to let you know if they do the same to Earthlink as they are doing to Road Runner then as much as I hate to say this I will be leaving

    Me: I thought Earthlink was separate

    Sachi G: I am sorry for that

    Me: I am as well

    Sachi G: Is there anything else I may assist you with today?

    Me: Nope. Once Time Warner tells you guys what prices you are stuck with then I will be leaving and I will contact Earthlink.

    Sachi G: You can have our Cable Standard service for $29.95 per month for 6 months and thereafter $41.95 with speed 7.0Mbps

    Me: Thats what I was told. But Time Warner is now saying that Earthlink will also have a Tiered Pricing system and bandwidth caps.

    Sachi G: I am sorry we don’t have the information

    Me: Thats ok. I will wait and if Time Warner is in control and they change
    Earthlink pricing then as I said I will be leaving. I just don’t know how they can legally do that because of that court case in 2000 or 2001.

    Sachi G: Okay

    Me: Thanks for your help

    Sachi G: You are welcome

    • phil says:

      I am not surprised by this. Most of Earthlink’s reps seem to be in Asia somewhere and they will simply not have any of this information unless/until Earthlink corporate sends it to them as a memo. Since Earthlink has been very quiet on this subject, we are just going to have to wait and see what they eventually say. Meanwhile, you can still use them for six months cap-free for $29.95 and at least that’s still more satisfying that giving your business to Road Runner at full price. This cap business doesn’t start during the six month window anyway.

      • Mark Turner says:

        Ron,

        I believe the agent you spoke with was simply explaining the breakdown of services. TWC handles Earthlink’s billing, but as far as I know it does not set Earthlink’s price (this news story notwithstanding). Basically, I would not take Sachi’s word for this.

        • Ron says:

          It can be taken that way. It is just very confusing, especially when considering this story.

          An Official response from Earthlink would be nice right about now.

    • Jeffrey_Bays says:

      You have to understand. There is not an Earthlink Rochester rep. When I called earthling today, i could tell that the rep was in the dark about the changes TW it doing. They couldn’t grasp the fact that I already had TW internet and all i wanted to do was change who i paid money to. They wanted to schedule an install and they required that I terminate my service with TW before i call them back to place the order.

      They probably have a pricing structure that changes every 10 days or so. TW will dictate how much they pay to use them as the medium to provide service to their customers. When they “offer” internet to customers, they have to calculate margins based on projected or current pricing. They do not actually provide you any service. Their equipment is TW’s

      Sadly, It actually sounded like you were talking with a chat bot.

      • Ron says:

        I hate to say it. But I did wonder about that being a chat bot. When I switched over to Earthlink they talked about having it installed. Time Warner called to come and install it and I had told them that I already had everything and all that needed to be done was to switch.

        Earthlink is separate, so they say, but I am wondering if it is more of a puppet (So to speak) with Time Warner pulling the strings. Maybe I am reading too much into. Like you said they don’t have a Rochester representative. But the Modem is TW, the cable is TW the installation comes from TW the billing comes from TW…

  5. Ron says:

    Phil, I agree. I am glad I went to Earthlink but after the six months and based on what Earthlink does I may switch to Frontier (Unless they end up doing the same thing.)

    I made my point with Time Warner. I haven’t had cable TV in a very long time because of what Time Warner and Companies like them have done to the pricing. I am stopping Road Runner for the same reasons. If they do to Road Runner what they did to cable, I can imagine the prices in the near future.

    How ever, I do have Time Warner’s Digital Phone. But if I switch to Frontier then I won’t keep that either. I may get that turned off soon anyways. I don’t even want to think what they will do to that in the future. I have to wonder if they will treat their digital phone like a cell phone with plans, etc. They say no now. But they said no less then a month ago when I had called and asked about Road Runner and their tests in Texas and how or if it would affect us up here. They said no. A few days later they come out with this. So if they say no with their digital phone, why would I believe them.

    • Jeffrey_Bays says:

      Ron,

      What did you do to change over your service. Did you have to cancel with TW before you talked with Earthlink?

      If you do not use your home phone regularly, grab the magic jack. For light use and outgoing calls, Magic jack rules. I have 6 years of service for about $.70 a month.

      • Ron says:

        Thank you. I will check that out. I am a very light phone user so this sounds prefect for me.

      • grant says:

        Be careful with the MagicJack. It might be a great product that you only pay $10/year for, but you won’t get a local number if you live in Rochester.

        They will give you a “585” number based out of Batavia. Anyone that calls you will be calling Batavia, and that might be long distance for them.

        Still not bad as a second phone line, perhaps. I believe the device cost about $40 up front.

  6. Tim Katje says:

    Time Warner Cable must be made to understand that we will not tolerate this new metered pricing scheme. As the country that invented the Internet, this is wrong! Please sign my petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/unlimited-unfettered-internet to help get the word to TWCs investors.

  7. Josh says:

    I called and after pulling lots of teeth I got someone on the phone to say they don’t have a cap and don’t plan on imposing any. Even if that doesn’t remain true I switched over to EarthLink today, even if it just means the $30 a month promotional offer. The install was easy enough, it literally is “Unplug my cable modem, wait a minute, plug it back in.”
    Hopefully before those six months run out something besides 1.5Mbps DSL will be available in my area.

  8. wickstopher says:

    I am moving soon, and trying to figure out which ISP I should go with. I just got out of a chat session from an Earthlink salesperson, and after some runaround they made the statement that they would NOT be making the move to tiered service. Here is an excerpt:

    Allan S: Thank you for using EarthLink’s live Sales chat. How can I help you today?
    Chris: Hi, I am in the Rochester, NY area and I was wondering if you were planning on moving to tiered service a la TWC?
    Chris: I am moving soon and need to set up new internet service
    Chris: and I was hoping to ditch TWC
    Allan S: Do you already have an account with us?
    Chris: and I like your intro rates, and even the continued service rates
    Chris: no
    Chris: I am aware that you buy your bandwidth from them, so I was wondering if you had any plans of switching to metered bandwidth plans
    Chris: as this is a crucial part of my decision making process as to which provider to choose
    Allan S: Let me see what is the best service available for you.
    Allan S: To see what high speed options I can offer you, let me start by getting your name, phone number and complete physical address at that location.
    Chris: I already know your package and speed options that are available to me
    Chris: and I like them
    Chris: the only thing holding me back from signing on is the question i asked
    Chris: i.e. are you going to be switching to metered bandwidth plans when TWC does?
    Chris: or do you have any plans of doing so in the future?
    Allan S: I need to check what is the service deal available at your location.
    Chris: 14609 is my zipcode
    Allan S: May I have the complete address at that location please?
    Chris: (address removed)
    Chris: I really just need the answer to that simple question
    Chris: I’m not buying right at this moment anyways
    Allan S: Great news!!
    Chris: I will be ordering in a few weeks
    Allan S: I see that you are serviceable for our High Speed Cable Internet.
    Allan S: This is a best effort technology with speeds up to 7.0mb on the download and up to 384kb on the upload.
    Chris: I already knew that, Alan
    Allan S: There is no charge for the standard professional installation, $29.95 per month for your first 6 months and then just $41.95 per month after that.
    Chris: I looked it up on your site
    Chris: I KNOW
    Allan S: We are offering unlimited internet access.
    Chris: and will you continue to do so indefinitely? or are you unable to answer this question?
    Allan S: Yes, we will continue to offer you unlimited internet access.
    Chris: even after Time Warner imposes bandwidth caps on their subscribers?
    Allan S: Yes.

  9. Marc A. says:

    I don’t torrent or anything, but I do watch a lot of HULU, Joost and netflix on demand downloads and if this goes through i’m pretty sure a lot of people will cancel, and go to DSL, or even just use a cell phone provider internet plan, or just plan go to the library or internet cafe. I am just happy that I don’t live in that market but if it were to happen with comcast, I will be sure to immediately cancel and switch.

    • Earl Cooley III says:

      That brings up a point: how will usage caps affect libraries and internet cafes? I can see cafes going out of business or being forced to jack up their prices over this, and, in general, kill free wifi in collateral damage. As for libraries, their funding is already traditionally precarious; they don’t need another big chunk torn out of them over caps.

  10. Rob says:

    For some reason I just don’t trust Earthlink. When Time Warner starts arm twisting in a couple of months I’m sure Earthlink will roll over and give in and also implement bandwidth caps.

    If these price hikes go through I’m canceling Road Runner.

  11. Dave Wright says:

    TWC will watch their customer base move to other sources because of this low cap on BW. 200GB cap is more reasonable for the $41.95 price. I will leave TWC if they leave the cap at 40GB.

    Thanks,
    Dave Wright

    • This is an experiment to test whether consumers will revolt over usage caps. In my humble opinion, imposing ANY cap for users at a time when this company is increasing its broadband profits, and bandwidth delivery costs are declining, is unreasonable.

      Caps are profit grabs and band-aids. Existing Acceptable Use Policies offer plenty of provisions to quietly and effectively deal with that small percentage of customers who are bumping up to the 1TB of usage a month… that’s 1000GB.

      There are better ways to manage this than imposing punitive caps on residential customers. And asking for $150 for “virtually unlimited” service that is priced at $39 today is a rate hike even the oil companies wouldn’t try.

  12. Rachel says:

    I just did the internet chat with Earthlink and got pretty much the same reply as wickstopher.

    A small copy/paste of the chat:

    Ricky W.: This is a best effort technology with speeds up to 7.0mb on the download and up to 384kb on the upload.
    Ricky W.: There is no charge for the standard professional installation, $29.95 per month for your first 6 months and then just $41.95 per month after that.
    Ricky W.: The best part is that it does not have a contract therefore you will not be under any sort of obligation. There are no cancellation fees as well.
    Rachel: So I am wondering- are you going to be doing the internet restriction caps in Rochester as well?
    Ricky W.: NO,our service is with Unlimited access.
    Rachel: excellent! That is what I needed to know

    Now I know that things can change in an instant. He is probably just a rep or unaware of what was happening in Rochester. But I am hoping it is true.

    • Mazakman says:

      Potential Earthlink cable customers here in Rochester…be informed that the speed is the same as RR.. 10/384 service. This has been confirmed by a local new EL customer who posted in my thread in the RR forum at DSLReports. Also a speedtest result was posted there by this person.

  13. Dave D. says:

    What the article doesn’t say is that in 2005 the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a federal court decision that would force cable companies to share their infrastructure with Internet service providers such as Brand X and EarthLink.

    Then in 2006 EarthLink and Time Warner simply extended an agreement under which EarthLink sells its broadband Internet service over TW’s cable modem network.

    Anyone who believes that the TW attorneys prepared a document that gave EL rights to determine bandwidth, caps etc. on their network is in denial.

  14. Ståle says:

    I switched to Earthlink today as well, and when asking flat out in the chat session if they will be introducing caps, the answer was ‘no’.

    • We have still never a heard a word about this from their corporate offices. The company can be emphatic about the answer “no” as long as TW stays backed off away from their tiering plan. I wonder if Earthlink is available in Beaumont, which is already capped. If so, it would be interesting to learn what the status of the service is there.

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