Time Warner Cable is giving itself the option of imposing bandwidth caps with the introduction of new service agreement terms. Discovery of the new terms have led to an uproar among consumer advocates on the Web.
The company has made no public statement about reviving the expansion of testing of bandwidth caps, or of instituting the technique on a commercial basis.
Earlier this year, TWC said it would expand its tests of bandwidth caps from Beaumont, Texas, into several other markets, but backed off when consumer groups protested and convinced several congressmen to consider intervening. TWC backed off the plan to expand its tests.
Some interpreted that as a disavowal of service caps, but that was never the case. Quite the opposite – CEO Glenn Britt called the whole thing a misunderstanding and talked about having to educate the market.
The entire communications industry was unprepared for the rapid and enormous increases in Internet traffic over the last few years, spurred in large part by the unanticipated popularity of Web-based video. The cable industry’s position is that its broadband network resources are not infinite and so, given the circumstances, must be managed. Imposing bandwidth caps is just another management technique. TWC is leading the effort in the U.S. to introduce that management technique and, as Britt indicated, educating people about bandwidth caps is going to be a prerequisite.
Part of the education effort was equipping all TWC systems with software that can meter usage and provide each individual customer notice of his or her usage (story here). That capability was cited by Rogers Cable as critical to its success in preparing its customers for the introduction of bandwidth caps.
The introduction of the new service terms is apparently the next step in TWC’s education campaign. TWC now explicitly reserves the rights to introduce bandwidth caps and to take steps to penalize those who exceed their caps.
Here is the relevant language in the new service agreement (from GigaOm).
6. Special Provisions Regarding HSD Service.
Spokesmen for Time Warner Cable were not immediately available for comment.