[SATLUG] Time Warner...again

Geoff geofff at w5omr.shacknet.nu
Wed Jun 3 06:39:46 CDT 2009


Just so it work where everyone can see it...

wish the formatting and links would transfer over from the copy-n-paste.
-Geoff


*Updated: *Time Warner Cable has modified the language
<http://stopthecap.com/2009/05/28/theyre-back-time-warner-cable-adds-cap-n-tier-language-to-subscriber-agreements/>
of its consumer subscriber agreement that is directed at legitimizing
the cable company’s ability to throttle and measure a consumer’s
bandwidth. The new additions to the agreement also sanction tiered
pricing. After Time Warner Cable’s failed attempt to expand
<http://gigaom.com/2009/04/16/time-warner-cable-backs-off-metered-broadband-trials-in-rochester/>
tiered billing trials, which created different pricing plans
<http://gigaom.com/2009/04/06/time-warner-cable-says-it-singled-out-austins-geeks/>
for consumers based on the amount of data they downloaded, the company
promised it would shelve the plans while it educated consumers. It looks
like that education campaign may come now that the legal bases are
theoretically covered. Here’s the new language:

    6. Special Provisions Regarding HSD Service

    (ii) *I agree that TWC or ISP may change the Maximum Throughput Rate
    of any tier by amending the price list or Terms of Use. *My
    continued use of the HSD Service following such a change will
    constitute my acceptance of any new Maximum Throughput Rate. If the
    level or tier of HSD Service to which I subscribe has a specified
    limit on the amount of bytes that I can use in a given billing
    cycle, I also agree that TWC may use technical means, including but
    not limited to suspending or reducing the speed of my HSD Service,
    to ensure compliance with these limits, and that TWC or ISP *may
    move me to a higher tier of HSD Service (which may result in higher
    monthly charges) or impose other charges and fees if my use exceeds
    these limits*.

    (iii) I agree that TWC may use Network Management Tools as it
    determines appropriate and/or that it may use technical means,
    including but not limited to suspending or reducing the Throughput
    Rate of my HSD Service, to ensure compliance with its Terms of Use
    and to ensure that its service operates efficiently. I further agree
    that TWC and ISP *have the right to monitor my bandwidth usage
    patterns to facilitate the provision of the HSD Service* and to
    ensure my compliance with the Terms of Use and to efficiently manage
    their networks and their provision of services. TWC or ISP may take
    such steps as each may determine appropriate in the event my usage
    of the HSD Service does not comply with the Terms of Use. *I
    acknowledge that HSD Service does not include other services managed
    by TWC and delivered over TWC’s shared infrastructure, including
    Video Service and Digital Phone Service.*

The language means that a subscriber can’t sign up for a contract plan
hoping to avoid tiered pricing by getting in before a new tiered plan is
implemented. It also specifically threatens throttling of a person’s
service for violating the terms of use (hopefully it makes those terms
of use a little clearer
<http://gigaom.com/2009/04/24/austin-bandwidth-hog-claims-time-warner-cable-cut-him-off/>,
though). It also separates out its voice and video service from the data
plans, and it appears that those won’t count against any cap, and they
may not be subject to throttling. Time Warner could not be reached for
comment, but allowing its own products to bypass a cap would give its
services an advantage over other VoIP providers and online video. That
may draw the FCC’s ire. The agency earlier this year was asking Comcast
whether it prioritizes its own VoIP services
<http://gigaom.com/2009/01/19/fcc-asks-if-comcast-slows-rivals-voip-traffic/>
over competitors’ also running on the cable network. We can’t get a new
FCC chief soon enough
<http://gigaom.com/2009/05/11/we-need-an-fcc-chief-and-we-need-him-now/>.

*UPDATE:* Stop the Cap, which first reported that Time Warner had
modified its subscriber agreements, has updated its original story to
note that there is a dispute over when Time Warner actually made the
changes to its subscriber agreement. “Time Warner Cable representatives
told another reporter that the language we reported on was published
earlier than ‘implied’ in this article,” wrote Phillip Dampier, founder
and editor-in-chief of STC, in an update published yesterday evening (we
heard from the same reporter). “In their eyes, this represented ‘nothing
new.’”

Exact timing aside, what is clear is that Time Warner did recently
notify a subscriber in San Antonio, Texas, of a change to the subscriber
agreement on that subscriber’s May bill, which is what prompted both
Dampier’s story and my own. Time Warner still has not returned my
repeated calls and emails seeking comment, while calls to the company’s
customer services reps resulted in an array of responses, including one
representative telling me that Time Warner was still practicing tiered
billing in North and South Carolina and another who said that the
subscriber agreement is accurate and that the company is not charging
overage fees.

One way or another Time Warner still needs to address the concerns
generated by the modified language. Yesterday Public Knowledge, a public
interest group, called on the FCC and Congress
<http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/2252> to investigate the language
included in the terms, specifically those that appear to exempt Time
Warner’s own services from a bandwidth cap and any throttling. If Time
Warner provides me with information as to when the changes were made, or
answers any of the other questions I sent, I’ll update you.



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