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TWC to Bring Usage-Based Broadband Nationwide

Even though not many customers have opted for it, Time Warner Cable will expand its usage-based billing plan for lighter Internet users nationwide by the end of 2012 with the exception of Hawaii, chairman CEO Glenn Britt said at an investor conference Monday.

Under the operator’s broadband Essentials plan, customers who use less than 5 Gigabytes of data per month get a $5 discount on their bill. Usage over that limit is billed at $1 per Gigabyte, with a maximum of $25 in surcharges.

Britt, speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York, said TWC will “always offer unlimited service” but sees an opportunity to cater to customers who don't use as much broadband, Light Reading Cablereported.

The MSO first launched the Essentials broadband offer in February in several Texas markets -- San Antonio, Laredo, Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Valley and the state’s Border Corridor -- and then expanded it this summer to Austin and Dallas.

"We are currently offering Essentials in Texas, the Carolinas, Northeast and Midwest," Time Warner Cable spokesman Justin Venech siad. "This is a money save option for light users." He declined to reveal how many customers have taken the Essentials option, but at the UBS conference Britt acknowledged that few had so far.

The new approach is markedly different from TWC’s first crack at usage-based pricing. In 2009, Time Warner Cable announced plans to experiment with forced usage-based pricing for broadband users in four markets -- and quickly shelved those trials after a firestorm of criticism and complaints from consumers and political officials.

Some other U.S. Internet service providers have adopted usage-based pricing including AT&T and Suddenlink Communications. AT&T shifted to a mandatory usage-based pricing model for Internet customers in May 2011, and met with considerably less outcry than Time Warner Cable did two years earlier.

Providers that have explicit data-usage limits but don’t charge overage fees include Cox Communications and Charter Communications.

Comcast in May 2012 officially eliminated its 250-Gigabyte monthly cap and instead is planning to test out two different usage-based pricing models with a minimum of 300 GB before fees kick in.

Customers will have a 60-day grace period (two billing cycles) to adjust usage patterns, during which the MSO will notify customers of overages but won't charge for them. Time Warner Cable provides a data-usage tracker at so customers can gauge their monthly consumption.