Time Warner Cable will begin testing Internet metering in Beaumont, Texas Thursday in a trial and that angst from the chattering class is palpable.
According to an Associated Press report that set off the blogger-angst-o-meter:
(Time Warner Cable's) tiers will range from $29.95 a month for relatively slow service at 768 kilobits per second and a 5-gigabyte monthly cap to $54.90 per month for fast downloads at 15 megabits per second and a 40-gigabyte cap. Those prices cover the Internet portion of subscription bundles that include video or phone services. Both downloads and uploads will count toward the monthly cap.
The other kicker is that this trial will only apply to new customers, who will have to check a gas gauge on Time Warner Cable's site, according to the AP.
Needless to say, this metering thing raised quite a ruckus in the blogosphere. Silicon Alley Insider notes that the pay-per-use trial will fail. Jeff Jarvis says Time Warner is choking its customers. Headline of the day goes to GigaOm, who noted all the tiers for fears.
I must be missing something here, because I don't see a lot to get wound up about. For starters, Time Warner Cable is doing a trial that has been outlined since January. It's a small experiment for new customers. And the company is looking to ditch bandwidth hogs that are costing it money. If all the trial does is convince the P2P downloaders to find a new network, Time Warner Cable will have done its job.
In other words, this tiered metering plan is way controlled--and Time Warner Cable will wait a few months before assessing fees. By that time you can find a new cable provider, move to A&T, Verizon or make alternate plans. The Time Warner Cable move is similar to what Sprint tried to do: Boot pricey customers to save money. And we all saw how that turned out.
That said Time Warner Cable's grand experiment isn't really all that grand. Your electric is metered. So is your water. In Europe, metered Internet access is common. Your wireless bill also has charges if you break through contractual caps. Yet no one screams about it.
Perhaps Time Warner Cable's trial falls flat. Maybe it doesn't. But since only new subscribers are affected there's more than ample opportunity for these folks to bail out and find another alternative. No sense in stressing yourself out with angst when you can simply vote with your dollars.