Time Warner Cable, Charter Set Internet-Usage Cap Plans

Time Warner Cable will expand a test of usage-based Internet billing to four additional markets, while Charter Communications has confirmed that starting next week it will impose usage limits on most of its broadband users.

Time Warner Cable chief operating officer Landel Hobbs, on the operator's earnings call Wednesday, said the operator will expand its "consumption-based billing" beyond the small Beaumont, Texas, system where it initiated a test last year.

In that market trial, the MSO has been charging $1 for every gigabyte a subscriber uses above a preset threshold.  Time Warner Cable has not identified the markets where it will adopt usage-based billing next.

Charter, meanwhile, will update its "acceptable use policy" on Monday, Feb. 9, to establish maximum data-consumption limits, spokeswoman Anita Lamont said. The operator's usage caps were first reported Tuesday by BroadbandReports.com.

Charter customers with service speeds up to 15 Mbps will be capped at 100 Gbytes per month, and those with between 15 and 25 Mbps will be capped 250 GB per month.

Lamont said more than 99% of Charter's customers will be unaffected by the updated policy, "as they consume far less bandwidth than the threshold allows." The company will contact those who do exceed the limit to attempt to resolve any issues before their service is suspended, she added.

For now, Lamont said, Charter will not impose a consumption threshold for its freshly launched 60-Mbps download Ultra60 service, available initially only in parts of St. Louis.

Bandwidth metering has become common practice among the largest cable providers. Comcast in October 2008 instituted a 250-Gbyte monthly maximum for all broadband subscribers.

For its part, Cox limits monthly consumption for its 10-20 Mbps tier to 60 Gbytes downstream and for its 5-9 Mbps tier to 40 Gbytes downstream.