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Top cable companies try reining in heavy web use

04 июня 2008

Top U.S. cable operators Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc will begin testing ways this week to limit individual subscribers who use the largest amount of Internet capacity in an effort to protect their high-speed networks.

The moves are a response to government inquiries as well as the heavy costs of upgrading existing broadband infrastructure due to the explosion of downloading and watching music and videos.

Such usage is "taxing the infrastructure," a Time Warner Cable spokesman said. "In order to make investments in the infrastructure, we have to find the revenue to pay for it."

Some technology blogs have criticized the new pricing structure and usage limits, which they said would curtail interest in viewing videos online and enrage consumers who currently pay for unlimited service.

Time Warner Cable said it will launch a service on Thursday that charges new consumers of high-speed Internet service based on their usage. Broadband subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, will be charged $1 per gigabyte above monthly allowances, a company spokesman said.

Separately, Comcast said it has changed the way it will manage network traffic and begin a test to slow the transfer of files to individual subscribers who are its heaviest users during congested periods.

The tests will begin Thursday in the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and Warrenton, Virginia areas.

Time Warner Cable's new policy is intended to address its top 5 percent of users, who have spent a "disproportionate" amount of time on the company's network, the spokesman said.

Consumers in Time Warner Cable's test region will be offered several levels of service. A $29.95 per month plan for slower speeds of 768 kilobits per second and a 5 gigabyte limit would let users send and receive nearly 350,000 e-mails, play 170 hours of online games, or download more than 1,380 digital songs per month.

At the high end, a $54.90 monthly fee for a 15-megabit-per-second service and a 40 gigabyte monthly limit would allow subscribers to watch 124 hours of standard-definition videos or download 11,070 songs.


Comcast is currently looking at "consumption" billing plans. The top U.S. cable operator offers tiers of service differentiated by speed, but not by size limits.

A Comcast spokesman said it is also evaluating a monthly 250-gigabyte limit for customers to manage its heaviest users, but it has not made a decision.

"We want to deliver the best online experience for our customers," a Comcast spokesman said. "We can do it really quickly and without the need for government intervention."

In January, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said it would investigate complaints by consumer groups over the blocking of file-sharing services such as BitTorrent on Comcast's service.

At the time, Comcast said it did not block such services, but used network management technology to slow delivery of files to heavy users of such services.

Comcast's new approach will stop distinguishing the type of activity or services that are considered bandwidth hogs, but will slow delivery of files it believes is taxing the network.

"Setting the caps is a very simple matter to change," the Time Warner Cable spokesman said. "If usage patterns are such that we need to change those, we certainly can."

Источник: Reuters

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