Broadband Reports notes that internal memos from Time Warner Cable suggest the company is experimenting with overage fees for their highest bandwidth users
in Beaumont, Texas. If those overage charges work, the idea, of course, would be to then roll them out nationwide. On the whole, overage charges are a lot more palatable than unpublished traffic shaping rules
or "fuzzy caps"
where the top users are cut off without any explanation of what line they crossed. The key, of course, is that with both of those latter "solutions," the subscriber is told they're getting unlimited service, but the reality is different. Assuming that the overage charges and the rules surrounding them are clearly communicated, such charges are more reasonable. However, there are still questions about how consumers will react to such a change, especially after being sold on an "unlimited" service. The bigger issue is that capping bandwidth usage is a way to slow down internet-based innovation
. If there had been overage charges a few years back, services like YouTube might never have caught on, as people would be too worried about how much bandwidth it would suck up. If the cable companies can't provide enough bandwidth, that's clearly an issue -- but most reports suggest that claims of a bandwidth crunch are overblown
: Just saw Adam Thierer's amusing pre-emptive reply
to me on the topic. I'm not as against the idea as he suggests, though I do think, in the long run, it's not a very good solution.