CenturyLink Preps Usage-Based Broadband Trial

CenturyLink appears poised to join ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Mediacom Communications that are testing or have launched usage-based policies for residential broadband services.

Per updated policy data spotted by DSL Reports, CenturyLink plans to kick off a usage-based billing trial in Yakima, Wash., starting July 26, that will charge $10 for a bucket of 50 gigabytes per data when customers exceed their monthly limit.

According to CenturyLink's current data policy FAQ, customers will get a grace period, as they will not be charged for the first two months that they exceed their monthly usage cap.

Customers who are subject to the test policy will receive an electronic “no charge” warning the first two times.  During months that customers are not billed, they’ll receive online alerts when they approach 85% of their data plan.

“Thereafter, if you exceed your usage limit, you will be billed for the overage without additional notice other than electronic alerts as you are approaching your monthly usage limit,” the FAQ notes, adding that those customers will receive online alerts when they are within 65% and 85% of their monthly data allotments.

Under the trial, service plans with speeds up to 7 Mbps can consume up to 300 GB per month, while those that have speeds of more than 7 Mbps will be capped at 600 GB before the usage-based policy is applied.  

The maximum additional monthly data usage charge CenturyLink will bill in the test market is $50, regardless of total usage.  Some CenturyLink customers are excluded from the usage-based trial and the telco’s more widely implemented excessive use policy, including business customers and 1-gig customers.

CenturyLink has not announced the length of the Yakima trial or when it might look to expand it to other markets. The telco has been asked for further comment.

Update: CenturyLink provided this comment: 

CenturyLink is conducting usage-based billing trials in Yakima, WA, to allow customers to control their Internet usage. This gives our customers proactive management of their usage and ensures they are being billed fairly. Very few customers will see any change in what they pay for Internet service, as customers will only be billed an additional amount if they exceed the Internet usage limit for the High-Speed Internet plan they purchased.

CenturyLink will analyze the data from this trial to determine next steps and make decisions regarding further roll-out of usage-based billing.

CenturyLink, which is developing a pair of OTT video products, hinted in February that it was mulling usage-based broadband policies.

"Regarding the metered data plans, we are considering that for second half of the year," CenturyLink CFO Stewart Ewing said at the time. "We think it is important and our competition is using the metered plans today and we think that exploring those starts and trials later this year is our expectation.”