Time Warner Field Testing Metered Internet Plans; 5GB Min/40GB Max Cap, Overage Charges

Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable internet provider in the US, has announced that it will begin field testing a new plan to meter internet usage.

The plans will introduce various choices of bandwidth caps and per-gigabyte overage charges to its customers in Beaumont, Texas. Time Warner executive Kevin Leddy told the AP that the metering will be rolled out in Beaumont starting this Thursday:

Tiers will range from $29.95 a month for relatively slow service at 768 kilobits per second and a 5-gigabyte monthly cap, to $54.90 per month for fast downloads at 15 megabits per second and a 40-gigabyte cap. Those prices cover the Internet portion of subscription bundles that include video or phone services. Both downloads and uploads will count toward the monthly cap.

"We think it's the fairest way to finance the needed investment in the infrastructure," said Leddy, who noted that 5 percent of Time Warner subscribers use up 50 percent of the company's available bandwidth. The company will charge customers $1 per every gigabyte used over their cap.

Bandwidth caps are a concern for gamers using services such as Microsoft's Xbox Live, where demos of titles can run in the multiple-gigabyte range. Valve's Steam service allows gamers to purchase and download PC games that can exceed 4GB.

The advent of internet metering can also be worrisome for digital entertainment providers. High-definition movie rentals typically weigh in at 4.5GB on Xbox Live, with low definition movie titles running at around 1GB on Apple TV.

Time Warner isn't the only company considering widespread bandwidth restrictions. Comcast recently announced that it will experiment with a 250GB cap, with plans to charge $15 for every 10GB used beyond the limit.