Earlier this week, I blogged about Time Warner Cable’s plans to test pay-by-usage pricing for its high-speed Internet service in four U.S. cities. For owners of the latest generation of game consoles, with their movie-download stores, streaming video capability and extensive online gameplay options, the experiment could result in much higher utility bills down the road.
Well, there’s been some good news for those fearful their addiction to watching streaming episodes of “Heroes” and “30 Rock” on their Xbox 360 is going to result in financial ruin: Time Warner has announced it is suspending its planned tests of metered Internet in Rochester, N.Y.; Austin and San Antonio, Texas; and Greensboro, N.C., following a flood of complaints and threats from lawmakers.
We’re not out of the woods yet, however. The same story reports that Time Warner’s tests will continue in Beaumont, Texas, and that it plans to distribute software to its customers so they can see how much bandwidth they’re consuming. (Cue ominous music.) What’s more, AT&T, which provides DSL service in Sonoma County, is conducting its own tests with metered billing in Reno and, strangely, Beaumont, whose citizens may be some combination of gullible, masochistic or subjects of collusion. (The caps AT&T is experimenting with are noticeably higher than Time Warner’s, the Associated Press says.)
Obviously, this is an issue that’s not going to go away any time soon. Will customers consent to being billed for Internet the same way they’re billed for electricity, by how much they use? Or will they insist on a one-price-for-everybody approach, in which light Internet users essentially subsidize the serial downloaders?