Insight Into Time Warner Metering

emarketer_chart_10022008 This chart really does tell you something. But let’s hold off on that thought for now. Let’s visit Time Warner’s data cap and what they’re not telling you. First off, regardless of how Time Warner is operating the business, the entire tiered system is a huge failure on the business end. Now there’s talk that the tiered system high end will not only have just the 40GB (previously said by TWC’s spokepeople as the higher limit) but there will also be a 100GB limit. The original limit was very obviously set by someone that hardly uses their Internet or has never actually had to care since they don’t pay for it being a senior management type for Time Warner. So to make a call for the high end at 40Gb when the rest of the world is running at more than that? Definitely a serious “TWC Fail”.

Layman Terminology
Don’t understand the technical terms? No problem. Here’s what Time Warner is currently doing:

Water = bandwidth
garden hose = bandwidth cap
limiting of actual water from source = data cap (new tiered system)

If you view your water out of your garden hose, that’s your bandwidth. The hose itself is your bandwidth cap. So since the beginning of broadband, consumers have only been purchasing the size of hose. Regardless of how much water you use, be it a trickle or full blast, you were always limited by the size of your hose that you “rented” on a monthly basis. What Time Warner’s inconclusive logic is now saying that due to the fact that you use less water, let’s limit the amount of water you can get and let you rent the same hose for the same price. More limitations, more money essentially. Don’t think it’s fair? It probably isn’t. Oh, and let’s not forget that you’re paying for this because “certain users” use more water. Wait, what does that have to do with you when you’re limited by the hose? It doesn’t. Essentially the logic is flawed. And the fact that you’re paying the same amount for essentially the potential of less.

Another analogy would be if you bought a Ferrari. So you buy the Ferrari and you’re paying some price for it. Whether or not you want to drive it at 5mph or 120mph is your call because that’s what you paid for. But now, the dealership (Time Warner) has decided that while you are paying that same price for the Ferrari, you can only drive it at 30mph unless you pay them more money on top. You might not have been driving it fast, but you are sure limited to what you had with what you pay.

Why is Time Warner REALLY Chasing This Issue
Now’s the time to take a look at that graph. If you’ll notice, it’s not really P2P traffic (even though any internet service provider wants you to think that it is). If it was, then you would think that P2P traffic would actually increase over the last few years as the word about Pirate Bay, and other types of services for P2P got out. In fact, studies show that if you trace the increases in traffic and the projected traffic patterns, it seems obvious that the issue lies in content provision by the Internet versus what is provided by Time Warner’s current business…. cable television. Are they deathly afraid of content being managed over the Internet instead of through the likes of cable television? I would think so. And if you manage to have access to a younger generation and ask them what they watch, you’ll realize that this maneuver is really a preemptive strike towards Internet content. If you think it’s a biased study, take a look at the source. It’s Cisco systems, whom pretty much runs the networking for …. well… everything. And believe me, Cisco doesn’t really care if it’s P2P or not.

And to top it off, if you get sucked into the entire pro-business model perspective, then you sort of wonder why Time Warner doesn’t implement a-la-carte pricing for their cable services if they’re trying to do this for their data model. How about your usual fifty to eighty dollars depending on if you pay for premium channels, but if you watch more than 14.84 hours a month, you have to pay one dollar for every hour. Where did I get 14.84 hours? At their maximum residential 6Mbps download speed, you can burn through 40Gbps potentially in that amount of time. Does this raise some eyebrows?

Flawed Mathematics
Okay. It’s not really flawed, but more like potentially faulty advertisement. First let’s take a look at how Time Warner does their mathematics here. Is that data cap a “marketing” gigabyte or an actual technical gigabyte? WE DON’T KNOW. Somehow, I doubt that they do either until they read this. But indeed this makes a big difference. Especially if you take into account that Beaumont, TX individuals have already seen some seriously messed up mathematics because of the failure of communicating the differences. The technical standard of a gigabyte is 1024 Mb (actually has to do with bits to bytes conversion). But in marketing terminology, a gigabyte is equivalent to 1000Mb. And notice that with this failure of communication, there are already reports of people getting miscalculated bills due to the Gb being different on different line items. You can seriously get nickel and dimed here since it’s not termed correctly.

What You’re Paying For In A Tiered Billing System
Less I forget, with a tiered system you would also be paying for “spam” and “advertising”. Yes, those flashy Flash ads and any junk mail you actually download for email? You’re paying for that in a tiered system. Don’t mind the fact that spam constitutes a major portion of Internet traffic. Is your Internet Service Provider helping you stop this? They can’t. Privacy regulations. It’s like if they actually did something about your computer being infected by viruses. And in case you just happen to be a technophobe and don’t know how to update your virus/malware protection and think that just buying Norton or McAfee will cut it? Yes, you too are now paying for your PC being infected. Great stuff.

Next off is their digital phone service. Do you pay Time Warner for digital phone? Think again when this tiered billing goes into place. You’ll be paying twice. Oh yes, you didn’t read that wrong. Why? You pay once for the phone service, but then again as part of your Internet. And as a transport provider, they can’t just commit to a free digital phone service, unless they wish to set themselves up for a potential legal battle not only on providing an unfair advantage in a marketplace, but one that would have the likes of Vonage, Lingo, Packet8, ViaTalk and others breathing down their necks. Don’t believe me? Just wait for it to happen. And if they actually do pull it out, then from a technical perspective, they’re actually traffic shaping by figuring out what packets are for what. That rolls them down a nice slippery slope of privacy issues since it doesn’t take much more to actually determine what exactly you’re surfing, watching, reading, and so on. Believe me, the technology has been there for ages and any computer science student that knows about the transport layer can write a program to do it.

Competition is NOT the Answer
And those of you that are thinking that TWC is the only company that’s out there trialing this, think again. Both Comcast and AT&T have been testing this tiered billing system for quite a while now. So allowing competition isn’t the issue as much as not allowing this type of billing practice.

Will Politicians Please Stand Up
Is this practice legal? No clue. But are there things that are questions arising from it? You betcha. Even Representative Eric Massa (D-NY) is stepping up to draft legislation against this type of data capping. Unsure if those representing North Carolina or even Texas will be actually following suit but it would be interesting to see if legislation would pass in this sense when there are major corporations that pay some serious lobby dollars in Washington.

The math stands. If you’re paying for 6Mbps download then let’s do the math.

Maximum downloadable = bandwidth x seconds x minutes x hours x 30 days.
.006Gbps x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 30 days = 15552Gb. Or 15.552Tbps / 8 (bit to byte conversion) = 1.94Tb of downloadable stored data.

The actual chance of anyone downloading that much data all at once? Well, never have I heard of it on a 6Mbps line and I’ve known some seriously heavy users in my day. In fact, how many users do you know actually know download half of that, even with P2P traffic? Internet service providers need to realize something in bad economic times. We’re willing to give you our fifty dollars a month because the Internet is a tool in today’s world and without it, things would move a lot slower. Snail mail versus email scenario. But, we won’t stand for you to stand on the backs of consumers when it’s an obvious play against our common sense.

Caveat Emptor.