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Spectrum Ditching Usage Measurement Meter Tool in July; Usage Caps Not in the Cards

Phillip Dampier June 11, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Data Caps, Public Policy & Gov't 3 Comments

Charter Communications is abandoning any pretense of data caps on its internet service by decommissioning its internet usage measurement tool for residential subscribers effective this July.

Company officials began notifying customers in billing statements that the usage measurement tool will be dropped effective next month. Charter Communications markets Spectrum internet service as free of any data caps, and a usage measurement system only confused customers about whether their internet usage was truly unlimited.

Originally introduced by Time Warner Cable in late 2009 and gradually made available to customers nationwide, the usage measurement tool reported monthly data usage for customers as part of Time Warner Cable’s original 2008 market test of data caps in Beaumont, Tex.

Customers were offered a Lite Tier with a 5 GB monthly cap or 40 GB of usage for the company’s Turbo Tier. Overlimit fees were $1/GB.

The company attempted to expand its data cap trial in the spring of 2009 to customers in Austin and San Antonio, Tex., Rochester, N.Y., and the Triad region of North Carolina. A major backlash, organized in part by Stop the Cap!, resulted in those market trials being abandoned within two weeks of being announced.

Time Warner Cable never attempted to impose compulsory data caps again after its disastrous 2009 trial and Charter Communications quietly abandoned its own frequently unenforced usage caps in 2015, shortly before bidding to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

By ditching the usage measurement tool, Spectrum will retire the last remaining elements of Time Warner Cable’s legacy of dabbling with usage caps and further monetizing internet usage.

Charter is also forbidden from imposing data caps for up to seven years as a result of deal conditions imposed by regulators in return for approval of its merger with TWC and BH.

Currently there are 3 comments on this Article:

  1. Wilhelm says:

    I’m worried that as soon as Charter can, they will implement caps. And, frankly, it worries me.

    I’ve spent the last few days watching coverage of E3, the video game expo. Companies like Microsoft and Sony have talked about a digital download only future along with streaming of video games so you don’t need a lot hardware muscle to play games. How is this going to even be possible in the US if the major ISPs are implementing draconian bandwidth caps?

    • I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

      Charter’s CEO has never been a fan of data caps. He wouldn’t allow them when he was an executive at Cablevision and they were almost never enforced at Charter, particularly a year before Charter moved to acquire TWC and Bright House.

      His view is that more data usage by customers means more incentive for customers to upgrade to speedier and more expensive tiers, which are more profitable for Spectrum. That is actually something we agree with. Comcast has not listened to its customers for over a decade and could care less what they want. I have to credit Time Warner Cable and, in turn, Spectrum for actually being responsive to customer protests about data caps. After we beat down TWC in 2009, they changed their entire philosophy on the subject, and since a very large number of mid-level execs (and company culture) of TWC has now fused with Charter, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

      What is especially revealing is that Charter makes the fact it has no caps a core marketing message that resonates with customers in areas served by cap-happy telcos. It would be even more interesting to see what would happen if Charter and Comcast competed head-to-head (not that it will happen). I’d bet Spectrum would probably emerge victorious.

      On the issue of streamed video games, you might be surprised to know that gameplay itself takes VERY little bandwidth. In fact, games are designed that way to ensure fast responsiveness. As you probably know, the big data munching comes when you are asked to download the game and updates, something that can literally consume gigabytes of data. The fact is, bandwidth is plentiful and cheap and getting more so every day. The argument for caps is hollow and lacks any credibility. Regulation or competition would solve this problem quickly, but not as long as people elect business-friendly politicians that let the status quo continue.

      • Ian Littman says:

        Gaming != Game streaming.

        Game streaming means delivering the usual amount of gaming traffic, PLUS a 60-fps (or more) video stream of the gameplay. OnLive was the pioneer of this tech, more or less, eight years or so ago, and today’s tech is more bandwidth-hungry because it’s higher resolution.

        Is the bandwidth usage higher per second than, say, HDR YouTube video? No. But if the GPU for your console is sitting in a data center rather than below your TV, that turns gaming bandwidth requirements to video streaming bandwidth requirements, with comensurate cap-eating tendencies.







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