Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Time Warner Tries Variable Broadband Pricing

Many of you have probably heard about this, but I couldn't stop thinking about it while reading the Compaine and Selwyn articles this week. Prices don't inevitably go down, and questions about access to information are always complicated by issues of the type, size and quantity of information that can be accessed.

Time Warner is unleashing a four-tier pricing plan for broadband internet services, with caps on the amount of material that can be up/downloaded each month. If you go over your capped limit, you're charged $1/G. So far, it's only being announced for New York, North Carolina, and Texas (interestingly, places where there's no competition from Verizon and its unlimited plans).

The backlash has already been huge, from consumers:
and from local politicians:
The capping strategy is likely to most target people who use a lot of streaming media, making it seem like a potentially "fair" method of charging for use, but there have also been concerns about deaf communities, who are especially heavy users of videoconferencing, being priced out.

Lastly, these changes are an interesting counterpoint to the plans for national broadband that Ashley posted below! Will the FCC's plan include pricing tiers, too?


  1. This is so timely. Thanks for posting this. Likewise, a lot of people pointed to the historical performance of the stock market over the past hundred years to say that extensive regulation is unnecessary. It just go to show that historical behavior and performance is only one small part of the picture, yet Compaine relies heavily on past ICT diffusion (of technologies that may or may not be similar to the suite of things that make up Internet technologies) to make sweeping inferences about how current and future technologies will proliferate. But is the landscape, in terms of regulation, for example, the same?

  2. How might a cap impact public libraries and schools? Would institutions be charged more, and if so, how might this affect the type of access provided to the public? Would a cap drive more people to use free services, such as those offered by libraries?