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As Mehan recently reported, Time Warner Cable announced that they would not be inflicting their tiny 40 GB caps and outrageous $1/GB to $2/GB overcharges on customers of its Roadrunner Internet service. But, apparently, their threatened "customer education process" seems to be revealing itself.
Consumer champion Phillip Dampier writes in his StopTheCap blog that Austin resident Ryan Howard found himself in the "customer education process" when TWC unexpectedly shut off his service. Reports Dampier:
According to Ryan, it took four calls to technical support, two visits to the cable store to try two new cable modems (all to no avail), before someone at Time Warner finally told him to call the company’s “Security and Abuse” center.
“I called the number and had to leave a voice mail and about an hour later a Time Warner technician called me back and lectured me for using 44 gigabytes in one week,” Howard wrote.
Howard was then “educated” about his usage.
“According to her, that is more than most people use in a year,” Howard said.
Another Austin resident, Cory Finnegan, commented that his access was also cut off. A few weeks ago,
One morning I opened firefox and there was a message telling me that I needed to call Time Warner’s security center to reinstate my connection. I called and left my number and was called back within the hour. The woman on the phone informed me that I was using for too much bandwidth and that what I had downloaded was about as much as a normal person does in a year.
This is interesting because it's the same behavior that got Cable ISP Comcast into hot water with the Florida Attorney General. As reported by Art, Comcast's settlement with Florida was the result of a state investigation in which Comcast “allegedly did not inform consumers of a specific bandwidth limit” for customers to be notified of “excessive use, which could lead to a customer being kicked off the service.
Yesterday afternoon, I reached out to Time Warner's P.R. V.P. Alex Dudley, who did not respond to my request for comment on this story by this morning. I can't blame him too harshly -- his company's screw-ups has kept him pretty busy over the past several weeks.
40 GB/week, however, appears to be the Roadrunner "InvisiCap," a term coined by Karl Bode at DSLReports to describe the phenomena of users hitting some glass consumption ceiling on their broadband connections. This is about 20 hours of HD movie viewing, something easily within reach of a family with a couple of teen-agers.
And while I criticized Time-Warner's proposed consumption-based plan as being nothing less than an abuse comparable to the days of railroad robber barons and tycoons, it was only because the TWC bandwidth consumption caps were too low and the charges were too high and that their monopoly-locked-in customers would have no choice but to pay them.
But whether or not I am okay with usage pricing still ought not be the factor: consumers themselves have spoken loud and clear that they want to continue to have a flat-rate model with occasional speed and capacity increases. This is the model that has worked over the past 10 years, and its the only one consumers seem to want for the next 10.