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Public rejects Time Warner metered-bandwidth tests

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Time Warner Cable is reportedly having trouble finding submissive test subjects for its proposed scheme of charging US customers by the gigabyte for their internet service.

Additional trials for the company's new "consumption based billing" regime were slated to begin in several markets this summer, but public outcry has made the cable giant retreat from some of its attempts to stuff the all-you-can-eat internet genie back in the bottle - for now.

The company originally intended to expand tests of metered billing on April 13 to Rochester, New York, Greensboro, South Carolina, and San Antonio and Austin, Texas. But all has not gone according to plan.

After facing a surge of complaints from customers, Time Warner has decided to delay the rollout in both Texas cities until October. Presumably, a few months will make bandwidth caps easier to swallow.

"What happened as we're continuing to listen was we worked in some of the comments and ideas that got sent to us," Time Warner's South Texas veep of communications told the San Antonio Express News.

Pricing would have started at 1GB per month for $15, and go up to 100GB per month for $75. Each gigabyte over the limit would cost $1, except for the $15/month plan, which charges $2 per GB.

Time Warner and other providers trying to push metered internet on customers argue that internet demand is rising at a rate that could outpace capacity within a few years. The companies say they need to raise money to fix the infrastructure problem, and the fairest approach is to move to a tiered model where customers who use more bandwidth foot the largest bill.

Opponents have claimed firms like Time Warner want tiered pricing to discourage usage of bandwidth-heavy internet video, which could threaten cable TV packages the companies also offer. Time Warner, of course, denies this claim.

Testing the markets in Rochester and Greensboro will apparently continue as planned. Interestingly enough, Rochester's leading DSL provider, Frontier Communications, has already abandoned its plans for metered billing because of - you guessed it - public outrage.

"We have gotten hundreds of calls from Time Warner customers into our call centers," Frontier's local honcho told the Associated Press. "I guess it's been a public relations crisis for Time Warner."

Frontier claims it's grabbing internet market share because of objections to Time Warner's metered pricing plans. ®

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