Suddenlink Reactivates Broadband Meter, Fee-Based Usage Policy

Suddenlink has restarted a policy that charges extra when cable modem customers exceed their monthly usage allotments three times, a decision that comes nearly a year after the MSO suspended the policy while it reviewed the accuracy of its bit-counting meter and looked to hire a third-party to validate it.

Suddenlink suspended the policy in August 2012 after some customers complained that the measurements on their individual router logs didn’t match up with the Suddenlink-provided meter on some occasions.

According to Suddenlink’s updated broadband usage policy page, the MSO reinstated its usage allowances for residential Internet accounts in most service areas as of May 2, 2013. DSL Reports first reported of the policy change on Monday.

Suddenlink’s updated allowance plan policy notes that the MSO's broadband usage meter has been reviewed by NetForecast, the same third party that monitors the accuracy of Comcast’s broadband meter.

Suddenlink said  NetForecast found that the MSO’s current system “reports usage within plus or minus 1% of actual usage. In the interest of fairness, we doubled that margin of accuracy for the purpose of this program, which means we do not consider an individual account as over its allowance until the measured usage is more than 2% over.”

By way of example, Suddenlink noted that a customer with a 250 GB monthly allowance would not be counted as exceeding the threshold unless his or her monthly usage exceeded 255 GB, as measured by the MSO’s broadband usage meter.  

Under the new plan, monthly allowances will be 150 Gigabytes for customers who take services that offer maximum download speeds of 10 Mbps or less, 250GB if the max download speeds are between 10 Mbps and 30 Mbps, and 350GB per month for customers that take tiers offering downstream speeds of 30 Mbps or greater.

According to the policy, customers who exceed their monthly allowance plan the first time will be sent to a notification Web page, where they will be directed to tell Suddenlink how they want to receive future notification (via Web browser or e-mail), enter their account number, and then save that information.

Suddenlink will send future notifications when the account reaches 80% of the monthly allowance and again when it exceeds 100%. Customers who exceed their monthly allowance a third time will be subject to a usage fee that will bill $10 for every bucket of 50 GB consumed.

“These plans should be more than sufficient for 99 percent of our customers,” Suddenlink noted, adding that customers who require more bandwidth should consider upgrading to a commercial account.

Word of Suddenlink’s change in policy comes on the same day that Cable One announced it would eliminate its broadband usage fee policy starting next week as it adds two faster broadband tiers and rolls out bigger monthly usage caps.

Among examples of other MSOs that have rolled out or tested policies similar to Suddenlink’s, Comcast  is trialing usage-based broadband plans in Tucson, Ariz.; and in Nashville, Tenn., and Mediacom Communications has rolled out its usage-based plan commercially.