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Time Warner Cable Reintroduces Usage Caps in Austin; Tell Them ‘No Thanks!’

Time Warner Cable has a usage meter up for some customers.

Time Warner Cable has reintroduced usage-limited broadband plans in Austin, Tex., three years after shelving an earlier market test that drew protests from local residents and civic leaders.

Time Warner Cable is offering three tiers of what it calls “Internet Essentials,” each offering different speeds of service, all with a 5GB usage allowance for a $5 monthly discount.

“It’s clear that one-size-fits-all pricing is not working for many consumers, particularly in a challenging economy,” regional vice president of operations in Texas Gordon Harp said. “We believe the choice and flexibility of Essentials will enhance value for lighter users, help us retain existing customers in a competitive marketplace and attract new customers to our superior Internet experience.”

But Stop the Cap! disagrees, noting the three variations of Internet Essentials all offer a tiny discount and come with a ridiculously low usage allowance.

With usage overlimit fees of $1/GB, currently limited to a maximum of $25, customers are playing Russian Roulette with their wallets. Just exceeding the allowance by 5GB a month eliminates any prospects of savings, and going beyond that will actually cost customers more than what they would have paid for unlimited Internet.

The company has added a usage tracker for Texas customers qualified to get the plan. It can be found under the My Services section of Time Warner Cable’s website.

Customers in Texas can choose from Grande Communications, AT&T or Verizon if they want to say goodbye to Time Warner’s endless interest in Internet Overcharging.  Image courtesy: Jacobson

Stop the Cap! recommends consumers strongly reject these plans. If customers are looking for a better deal on broadband, it is wiser to call Time Warner and threaten to take your broadband business to the competition. The savings that will result on a retention plan are sure to be better than the Internet Essentials discount, and no one will have to think twice about how they use their broadband account. Customers on an extremely tight budget can also downgrade to a slower speed plan that offers unlimited access, essential in any home with multiple broadband users.

Time Warner Cable does not help their position by significantly distorting the truth about their last experiment trying to limit customer broadband usage. In 2009, the company proposed changing the price for unlimited broadband to an enormous $150 a month. Customers protested in front of the company’s offices in several cities. Despite that, and the intense negative media coverage the company endured, Time Warner still believes its customers are itching to have their broadband usage limited:

Previous Experience with Usage-based Pricing

Time Warner Cable began testing usage-based pricing in 2009. Although many customers were interested in the plan, many others were not and we decided to not proceed with implementation of the plan. Over the past few years, we consulted with our customers and other interested parties to ensure that community needs are being met and in late 2011 we began testing meters which will calculate Internet usage.

We’d be interested to know what customers in the Austin area were consulted about the desire for usage-limited plans. Nobody consulted us either. We can imagine the “other interested parties” are actually Wall Street analysts and fellow industry insiders. We’re confident the overwhelming number of Time Warner Cable customers have no interest in seeing their unlimited use plans changed and company customer service representatives have told us there has been very little interest in the plans to date. For now, the company claims it won’t force people to take usage limited plans, but as we’ve seen in the wireless industry, yesterday’s promises are all too quickly forgotten.

With a usage meter now established, all it takes is an announcement Time Warner is doing away with unlimited broadband (or raising the price of it to the levels the company proposed in 2009), and customers are ripe for a broadband ripoff.

Time Warner Cable says it is “listening” to customers on its TWC Conversations website. We suggest you visit, click the tab marked Essentials Internet Plans, and let Time Warner Cable know you have no interest in these usage-limited plans and are prepared to go to war to keep affordable, unlimited Internet. With your voice, perhaps Time Warner Cable will finally realize that usage caps and consumption billing just don’t work for you or your family.

Currently there are 14 comments on this Article:

  1. Duffin says:

    I posted this:

    “No. Absolutely not. I am not interested whatsoever in having capped data on my internet. There’s no valid reason or excuse for this plan. It won’t save money for your customers. You are flat out lying that “many of your customers use very little broadband”. It’s a lie and we will NOT stand for the insulting mistruths. We are willing to go to war to keep our internet affordable and UNLIMITED. Just stop this and save face now or you’ll have a war on your hands that you will not win.”

    Unfortunately, after you post a comment it tells you that your comment maybe be ‘selected for representation”, but that all comments will not appears. So, unsurprisingly, I’m sure only nice and positive comments are going to be showing up there.

    • Yes, we ran into that message as well. We’ll see if they have the guts to share it with customers. I’ve always been willing to publicly debate anyone at Time Warner about their usage billing scheme.

      It’s kind of hard for them to argue when you have the last five years of financial reports in front of you. The “Internet is so expensive to upgrade” meme and the “millions we’ve already spent” don’t look so impressive when you count the billions in profits.

  2. Dean says:

    I’m in North Texas (Dallas) and now see a Usage Chart option available to me as well. Although no official notification of Tiered pricing with caps coming (as of yet). I’m on Extreme (69.99 / mo) and just checked the last four months of usage:

    March: 116 GB
    April: 129 GB
    May: 108 GB
    June: 100 GB

    Does that seem high?

    I work from home, have 5 PC’s, VoIP Phone service (not from TW), and rarely D/L any movies.

    • Well, you won’t be signing up for Internet Essentials that is for sure.

      That is significant usage, and the most frequent causes of it will be streamed movies and TV shows, file swapping, online backups, and downloads.

      If your family is online, this kind of usage, especially with teens, is not out of the ordinary.

    • Smith6612 says:

      My opinion? Not high at all. I’ve got 40 devices sharing a 1Mbps/384kbps line and it’s clocking very close to 200GB each month according to my DD-WRT router. My other Internet connection which runs at 3Mbps/800kbps shows roughly 300GB a month and these usage statistics stay pretty solid as far as what is consumed.

      When TV doesn’t interest many here and you have a home full of gamers, what’s to expect. I anticipate usage increasing when faster connections come into the home. Makes things less painful to buffer.

  3. Ian L says:

    I definitely won’t be signing up for Internet Essentials, based on my usage (a few hundred GB per month; will probably decrease once I’m the only person using the connection).

    Unfortunately, if TWC decides to add usage limits to its standard tiers…and those usage limits are low…I’ll be in trouble. My apartment complex doesn’t appear to disallow competitive Internet providers, but the competition to TWC there is…wait for it…3 Mbps AT&T DSL. Not happening.

    Grande Communications is great and all, but they aren’t available in my complex, nor in a number of other places in Austin that I checked.

    That said, if TWC decides to re-introduce paltry usage caps again (even on their highest-end residential plan, for which I’ll likely be paying), I’ll be passing out flyers to apartment residents in my area and collecting signatures to let Grande Communications know that they have a number of customers ready to switch from TWC to unlimited internet on Grande, if only it were available.

    • John says:

      @Ian – Actually an apartment complex is the perfect place for a third option: Sign up for TWC business class, set up an access point using a DD-WRT or Tomato flashed router and share the connection with a number of your neighbors.

      You and your neighbors will get faster speeds, no caps, and save money.

      • Ian L says:

        My particular complex is relatively low-density: eight or so units per building, and a fair amount of space between each building.

        Also, in order to ensure that everyone has decent speeds, I’d probably want to set up multiple routers, figure out channelization, etc. Not that I can’t do that, but it’s more work than you’d think at first :)

        Oh, and TWC Business Class doesn’t give any higher speeds than residential. Their $300-ish (maybe it’s more? Haven’t checked recently) 50/5 plan is as high as it goes, unless you want to do symmetric fiber, at which point prices go even higher.

        • Scott (not the one below..) says:

          As long as everyone had good range to the signal you could handle everyone with a single high quality access point with no problem. You just need to purchase a model that’s been tested to allow each individual device an equal amount of bandwidth without spiking 80-90% to a single device. These tend to be enterprise models like Ruckus or Meraki, but there’s probably a couple consumer or SOHO models engineered well too.

          However if you go with one like Merkaki you can monitor usage over the internet and apply policies to throttle usage. There’s also an open source version of Meraki that’s been around a year or two called Open Mesh. A 50/5 connection would be about perfect for that too, during prime time it may get a little tight on upload and a little on download but not bad.

  4. Scott says:

    Not sure why TWC thinks it’s such a good idea to introduce a plan like this in a tech-savvy city whose average resident is under 30-years-old. I’d dump TWC and go with Grande in a second, but as previously mentioned, most apartment complexes have shut them out. I’m certainly not interested in such an austere “essentials” plan.

    • Scott says:

      Also, it’s interesting that as of now there are NO comments posted on this at the TWC Conversations page for the Essentials package. Interesting…

  5. Luc says:

    I can’t fault Time Warner for trying. AT&T u-verse has a 250GB cap across the board for all internet speeds and i’m not sure what overage fees are.

    Here is a comparison of TW metered vs my router (e3000 running dd-wrt):

    March: 185GB / 228GB
    April: 150GB / 157GB
    May: 286GB / 293GB
    June: 113GB / 118GB

    So at least we know TW cable isn’t over metering. According to MY data, they are undermetering, even if just by a few GB.

    I would prefer to not be capped and the 5GB limit is ridiculous. However, almost all of europe is capped, and when I lived in Belgium for grad school fellowship I had only something like 30GB per month. A 500GB cap I would not consider crippling but again, would rather be uncapped. This is after all, stopthecap.com

  6. rockphantom says:

    This is alarming news!

    I’m an Austin resident and am trying to do my part to spread the word about TWCs latest over charging scheme.

    On Friday afternoon, I emailed the local ABC/CBS/FOX/NBC news outlets and expressed my concerns, as well as provided them with a link to this story.

    At the moment, the only local news outlet to reply has been our ABC affiliate, KVUE.

    I do recall that KVUE produced a news report on the TWC cap and charge scandal of 2009. I hope they do a story on the latest TWC profiteering scheme.

    Is there anything else I could do to spread the word locally?

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