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Warner Cable drops plans to charge heavy Internet users more

Time Warner Cable Inc. announced Thursday that it would shelve plans to begin charging Internet customers as much as $150 a month for heavy usage.

However, the company said it could resurrect the notion of “consumption-based billing” after “further consultation with our customers and other interested parties.”

“For right now, it’s off the table,” said Alex Dudley, a Time Warner spokesman.

As I wrote in my Wednesday column, Time Warner had planned to introduce “tiered pricing” for Internet use in New York and North Carolina this summer, with other states to follow.

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The company claimed that the expansion of online video viewing was placing unprecedented strain on data networks, and indicated that the heaviest users should pay more to help fund necessary improvements to the Net’s pipes and wires.

But Karl Bode, editor of BroadBand Reports.com, responded by saying this was just a money grab by a gatekeeper to the Net. Time Warner, he said, was more concerned about cable customers canceling their TV service and watching exclusively online.

Time Warner Cable’s chief exec, Glenn Britt, said in a statement Thursday that it had become clear “there is a great deal of misunderstanding about our plans to roll out additional tests on consumption-based billing.”

“While we continue to believe that consumption-based billing may be the best pricing plan for consumers, we want to do everything we can to inform our customers of our plans and have the benefit of their views as part of our testing process.”

Time Warner had intended to introduce different plans accommodating different levels of Internet use. The heaviest users would have faced monthly charges of up to $150 for 100 gigabytes or more of Net access.

One hundred gigabytes is the rough equivalent of 20 DVD-quality movies. For the time being, Time Warner customers are free to watch as much as they please for monthly access charges ranging from $35 to $57.

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David Lazarus’ column runs Wednesdays and Sundays.

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Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.


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