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Time Warner’s “Conversations” Website Goes One-Way; Customer Comments Gone

Phillip Dampier January 9, 2013 Editorial & Site News, Internet Overcharging, Time Warner Cable 3 Comments
Avoidant personality disorder

A one-way street or Avoidant personality disorder?

Back in July we noticed Time Warner Cable’s Conversations website, engaged in two-way conversations with customers, began a “dialogue” on the issue of its new 5GB usage-capped “Internet Essentials” plan first unveiled in several Texas cities.

The company provided its view that broadband innovation required pricing flexibility with new usage-based broadband plans to offer customers “more choice” and a $5 discount on service if they agreed to limit monthly usage to 5GB or less.

Despite sharing our two cents (and several of our readers tried to add their own as well), we noted none of these views ever appeared online.

This week we checked back and discovered the dialogue had decidedly turned one-way: namely from Time Warner Cable to you. The company deleted the few views that were published on cable television programming costs and removed its comment section altogether.

Our reader Kevin even tried to be generous in his comments to the company last summer, but to no avail.

“I basically told them if usage meter billing is inevitable, then give us no less than 300 GB a month, at a rate of $40 a month,” he wrote. “Seeing how 1 GB of bandwidth and data costs you less than $1 to generate to me, this is more than fair. Doubt they will even read it since it isn’t a ‘wow this is awesome, OMG i luv you so much for this new plan TWC’-message.”

They might have read it, but elected to avoid the uncomfortable notion of sharing the actual costs to provide broadband service to customers. It is not the first time, either.

Currently there are 3 comments on this Article:

  1. elfonblog says:

    “give us no less than 300 GB a month, at a rate of $40 a month”

    The math doesn’t work here. Perhaps he meant $1/GB? But that would actually be expensive bandwidth…

    “Seeing how 1 GB of bandwidth and data costs you less than $1 to generate to me”

    It is my hope that journalists like Phillip join me in vigilantly correcting this kind of language. There IS NO COST to providing data or bandwidth in any real sense, setting aside arbitrary business agreements that may exist to pay such-and-such per GB. To briefly explain, the only real cost is in maintaining the infrastructure that carries the data (you can divide a month’s operating cost by the number of GB transferred, but this is not a valid metric of the cost of providing service to any individual customer). Rises and falls in data traffic in this infrastructure do not cause rises and falls in the cost to maintain it. So, leaving language such as “cost per GB” unexamined is dangerous, as it tends to support the common misunderstanding that consumption billing is a fair and common-sense way to bill for Internet service.

    • I think he means buying the broadband service itself for $40 a month and getting at least 300GB in usage allowance.

      For the record, TWC pays pennies per gigabyte and their service has a 90-95 percent gross margin. The industry surprised itself when they finally found a product to sell that earns them even more profits than cable TV used to.

      It really is a license to print money.

      • elfonblog says:

        Hehe yeah, I figured that’s what he really meant, but he could be seen as making a case FOR TWC if he really valued his Internet service somewhere in the range of up to $1/GB. ;)

        As for how much TWC *pays* it’s peers/upstream providers, is another aspect of my point. They may have a formal agreement to pay such-and-such for each GB they send onto the network of a peer/upstream provider, but they get the same amount of credit for traffic they accept onto theirs. They keep this very well balanced so that the net cost is close to zero. But the rate they’ve technically agreed to pay is arbitrary, and is chosen to be large enough that ISPs who can’t peer can barely afford to buy access to the network. It’s also the figure they present to the public when asked to justify their high Internet fees.

        But again, what is paid is not what is cost. The public has been trained to blur over this distinction, but we should keep their eyes open. The actual cost of keeping the network up and running is probably even less than “90-95%” what they make charging for it, since they don’t have to run as efficiently as downstream ISPs in order to enjoy a hefty profit margin. They could conjure up a higher gross margin by streamlining their services further.

        Bandwidth may literally be money in some dystopian future. Imagine being paid in GB or TB credits, and buying things by the same metric. You run out of credits, and game over for you! If the government today can just print money (or mint trillion dollar coins, perhaps) then they can dole out bandwidth allowances the same way. They’d have to outlaw private networks, but that’s not too far off from what life is like today. We’d still have locked, certified appliances to help us expend our bandwidth rations. Government and industry today are eager to give us all devices to help us spend our money (credit cards, smartphones), but it’s almost always forbidden for us to create and use our own currency on their stomping grounds.

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