Time-Warner plans price ‘re-structuring’

by YES! Staff

It’s a time-honored business practice: Create a product that people want — or, better yet, need. Get it into their hands on the cheap, and then jack up the price or renegotiate the terms. Such is the case with Time- Warner Cable and its high-speed internet service.

The meter started running in Greensboro on April 1, a bandwidth measuring system instigated by Time- Warner Cable which sets the stage for tiered pricing on its Greensboro customers in a pilot program that the company plans to impose nationwide as soon as is feasibly possible. Here’s how it works: Everything you see on your web browser needs to be downloaded from the internet, and each page or item carries a certain amount of memory. The home page, for example, is about 50 kilobytes, or 50 K. An hour of music takes up about 1 gigabyte, or 1 billion KB. Movies and video use a lot more memory — one hour of HDTV uses about 8 gigabytes, and a feature-length movie could use as many as 20. The new pricing structure, the company says, is similar to existing cell-phone plans, whereby consumers pay for each minute of use. Packages of 5, 10, 20, 40 and 100 GB will be available, and just like with cell phones, overuse will carry a charge, $1 per GB. This could raise existing monthly rates to $100 or more for homes, and for businesses. The increase could be staggering — especially businesses like ours. Not only do our reporters spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet doing research and scouting stories, we use it to send photos and copy in from the field, to send ads to businesses for proofing, to watch breaking news live. We also use the series of tubes to send our paper to the printer at the Winston-Salem Journal, an operation that consumes about 300 to 500 megabytes (1,000 KB) information a week on top of everything else. Naturally, we have some quibbles with the proposal. For one, it reeks of the bait-and-switch hustle, which is an illegal form of consumer fraud. For another, the move does not jibe with Greensboro’s mandate to attract businesses and create sorely needed jobs. It also is a slap in the face to the city’s self-proclaimed status as a tech-central community. But we recognize that Time-Warner has an obligation to make money for its executives and shareholders, and that they, like just about everyone else, look to monetize the internet to a greater degree. And we see that the move is easily sidestepped. ComCast, Charter and Cox provide the same service but without the usage cap, for about $20 to $25, according to the consumer website And there are dozens of DSL companies in the area that cost even less for monthly internet usage. So while those who don’t use their might see some sense in paying a reduced rate for less gigs, voracious consumers interested in saving money will head elsewhere for their access to YouTube and Facebook.

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[T]he move does not jibe with Greensboro’s mandate to attract businesses and create jobs.