Do you enjoy downloading or streaming podcasts like Daytime Confidential of the Pine Valley Podcast? Do you enjoy watching You Tube clips like Imaginary Bitches or Pratt Falls? Do you enjoy viewing TV shows at Hulu.com or a network's website? Do you like talking to friends and family on Skype? Do you enjoy streaming movies from Netflix? Do you enjoy downloading music through iTunes? Do you want to pay less, not more, for your cable internet services? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have reason to be concerned. Each and every podcast, video clip, TV show, movie or image you watch or listen to equates as broadband download usage.
Time Warner Cable wants to start billing consumers for bandwidth usage in a manner similar to how cell phone companies bill customers for calling plans. The Huffington Post has an excellent piece that I would encourage everyone to read. It outlines in detail what the big cable internet companies want to do and why we the consumers have reason for concern.
Time Warner Cable's usage penalty would take the unlimited service we enjoy today (albeit slow compared to other nations), and make Internet more like cell phones, where you get overcharged by companies making record profits. It is the latest version of the Net Neutrality debate: should the companies that deliver Internet be allowed to block it, slow it down, or in this case, overcharge for it?
Time Warner Cable is regrouping, and says it is planning a "customer education process" to teach the public that high prices and Internet caps are good for us. And while the company tries to get its messaging right, other phone and cable companies are dipping a toe in the metering pool. AT&T is already testing a billing scheme that caps Internet use, and other Internet service providers are preparing to do the same.
The article does a much better job at detailing why this could be bad for consumers than I ever could, but I will say this. Right now cell phone companies such as Sprint and Verizon already include caps on internet usage. I believe it is 3-5 GB a month. They will tell you that there is no way you will ever use that much bandwidth. At this time that may be true, but what about the future?
Do consumers currently use such wireless internet cards - which are significantly slower than cable internet - as much as they use Time Warner, Cox or Cablevision broadband internet connections at home? Do they stream or download as many TV episodes, You Tube clips or mp3 files? My point is this. If Sprint and Verizon caps were applied to broadband internet companies would it be affordable? With more and more mainstream entertainment programming coming online and independent content such as Imaginary Bitches making a splash wouldn't it go to reason that household consumption would increase along with it?
Currently Sprint charges $59.99 for 5GB and $79.99 for unlimited broadband service with a download speed of 600Kbps - 1.4 Mbps. By comparison Time Warner has download speeds of up to 10 Mbps. A year ago I lived in a Time Warner Road Runner broadband area and if a customer included the purchase broadband internet with their cable package it was $49.99 a month. If they only had the internet service it was $59.99 a month.
Imagine world where $59.99 is just the starting point of your monthly internet bill. I'll leave you with one last quote from the article.
Today, some 40 percent of American homes do not have high-speed Internet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And high-speed Internet access in the US is already far more costly and slower than in 21 other developed countries. Time Warner's pricing plans would put the Internet even further out of reach for tens of millions of Americans.