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Phat vs Heavy: TimeWarner to Fix Pricing to Download Volume

chicago dyke's picture

"Phat" is a great word, you can use it in so many fun ways, even little kids can say it (that's actually really cute when it happens). Many fine things are Phat: blunts, cars, clothes, people's backsides. But what comes to your mind when I say heavy?

Company spokesman Alex Dudley said the trial was aimed at improving the network performance goddess don't you just want to barf? when have they ever 'improved' service? by making it more costly for heavy users of large downloads. Dudley said that a small group of super-heavy users of downloads, around 5 percent of the customer base, can account for up to 50 percent of network capacity.
Dudley said he did not know what the pricing tiers would be nor the download limits. He said the heavy users were likely using the network to download large amounts of video, most likely in high definition.

I was just looking at some photos of two people that we talk about here all the time. And I thought, "no, those are too good." But perhaps I was wrong, and they really did suggest what I thought they were suggesting. Time will tell. Either way, "hi res" and "heavy" downloading serve more purposes than just getting instant copies of "The Green Door."

"Heavy" is one of those evil corporate terms and we should squash it now.

To me, their logic is akin to a car manufacturer sending you a bill, after discovering that you drive your car a lot. I suppose in a way they do; most cars I've driven seem to have "built in dealer repair shop insurance," or something. Anyway, they never said to people when we signed up, "it's 99/m but if you go here or want to look at that we're going to charge you more." Now they want to. Will the Olde Pricing structure still be available to consumers in this "test?" I suppose not.

My father likes to say that they'd try to charge us for the air we breath, if they could get away with it. I hope consumers aren't so asleep that they will accept this. After all, teevee is really important to most people. So perhaps some will fight this. Most of what this is about has to do with companies like Netflix offering 'instant movies on your computer' and the cable companies don't want to give up their teevee monopoly. However, there is a less discussed fear of things like I saw today: citizen use of hi-res images in places the SCLM won't go. So there's that angle to scrape on your foil.

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Liberty's picture
Submitted by Liberty on

Why do more when they can charge people for less?

Submitted by lambert on


[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking
billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

mattd's picture
Submitted by mattd on

I have family members who are within the local dialing areas of large metropolitan areas (top 50 markets), but who are still unable to get any broadband internet service other than satellite. Not only does satellite service have a noticeable lag time, it's very expensive to install, and usually more expensive per month than basic DSL or cable internet service.

But the worst thing about all the satellite services is the "fair use" policy, again aimed exactly at stopping people from using bandwidth for video, particularly BitTorrent.

In essence, the lowest-priced services that all the satellite companies advertise limit you to about 5GB per month in downloading. If you go over the daily average for that rate for a few days in a row, they drop your speed to dial-up speeds until your average comes back in line. During that time, you have nothing better than you did before the dial-up service you gave up, except you're paying about four times as much for it and paid several hundred dollars to install it.

If you're willing to pay two or three times the "basic" monthly price, you can get the limits increased to 10GB or so. It's still not enough to use to regularly download and install software, or better yet, use video chat with your family (a key reason for isolated people to want broadband in the first place these days). Forget about anything like Apple's new HD movie rentals.

None of this is new. For decades, AT&T (and then the Baby Bells) tried to force anyone using a modem or a fax machine to have a "business" line at many times the normal price, saying (truthfully) that the phone network was designed and pricing set based on the idea that people would not be on the phone "all the time," so you wouldn't need network capacity for everyone at once. When the market started changing with flat-rate local calling, they didn't want to go the next step and expand the network to accommodate data signals from non-professional customers—but eventually, be it from regulation in some areas or market pressure in others, they did.

And you already have cable modem bandwidth limits by price today, whether you have the option to change them or not. Call your cable internet provider and ask about a "business" account. You'll pay more per month, but you get 24/7 technical support, static IP addresses, and more importantly, significantly faster service. Residential cable modem customers all share the same network segment; business customers (more or less) get their own segment that the cable company can throttle down or up (to the local network maximum) depending on how much you pay.

We've had business cable service for years, and every year or two, they increase the speed a little bit, or make available a new bandwidth that previously would have cost thousands of dollars of networking equipment to get. I could save a few bucks per month by cutting that bandwidth in half, but it's not worth it on any level.

The only difference there between the business and "residential" services in the same area is that I get to choose how much bandwidth I pay for. The residential customers pay a lower, flat rate and can't get a faster rate even if they want it, or a slower one if they want to save money.

Of course, none of the plans available here charge by amount of data transferred, which would quickly decimate the business service customers and they know it. If Time Warner is being truthful about how much bandwidth is going to BitTorrent users, then ideally, they'd want to limit the rates only on BitTorrent traffic and charge more for faster BitTorrent access.

In reality, it doesn't work that way, since the protocols would quickly start running on other ports or encapsulated in other protocols (HTTP, port 80, anyone?) to avoid the penalties. But to a certain extent, we have to wonder if we want the Internet to become like the US Postal Service, where all the "ordinary" mail users pay higher rates to subsidize the discounted rates for junk mail senders.

(I don't have any answers, just an appreciation of the issues and how they annoy me.)


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Here's a potential solution.
One person purchases a T1 or T3 line, gets others to buy into the Meraki device. Presto, lower priced internet. True, heavy downloaders will have a impact on these networks as well, but since anybody can/will be a heavy downloader at some point (which the gougers are counting on) the time to free ourselves from them is now.

The Meraki setup can manage broadband dispersal, charging more for heavy use. The difference is that overall the cost of the T1 or T3 line should be much less than cable or DSL.

This short blurb doesn't adequately discuss the opportunities. Note: I am associated with Meraki only to the extent that I have investigated T1 suppliers as the front end of a Meraki network in my city. For instance a T3 line offered at 3 mbs for about $800 per month will support about 50 users using a Meraki network at high speed. That's about $16 per month. Check it out.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

that was very informative. and again with me being too clever in my own head...the problem i really have with this is using the term "heavy." americans hate fat people, even as they are a fat people, and this sets up the narrative that "gluttonous, greedy, unattractive" users are a problem, both to be controlled (put on a diet) and scorned.

it's annoying.

my bottom line: al gore was right to invent the intertubes and envision them as a public inf'structure thingee. gummint can and should set up, control and maintain T1 grade capacity for everyone, for free. think of the productivity benefits, that alone would more than pay for it. we can afford star wars, we can afford universal access at high speeds for everyone.