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Suddenlink Puts Broadband Overage Fees on Ice

Jeff Baumgartner
8/27/2012
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Suddenlink Communications has suspended a new policy that charges extra when cable modem customers exceed their monthly usage allotments while the operator reviews its bit-counter and looks to hire a third party to validate the accuracy of its system.

The policy freeze comes soon after some customers logged complaints on Broadband Reports, claiming that the measurements on their router logs, on occasion, didn't match up with the Suddenlink-provided meter. Among them, one user cited a big discrepancy during a weather-related service outage, noting that the MSO's system continued to count bytes while the power was temporarily out. Last week, Suddenlink said it found its meter to be "consistently accurate" and stood by how it responds to customer complaints about it. (See Suddenlink Defends Its Broadband Bit Counter.)

On Monday, the MSO told Light Reading Cable that Suddenlink had completed an investigation and "concluded that our measurement of this customer's usage on the day in question was, in fact, inaccurate, although it did not result in the customer being billed" for any broadband overages. Suddenlink's allowance plan, which is not yet active in all its systems, charges $10 per each extra bucket of 50GB when customers exceed their monthly ceiling three times. (See Suddenlink to Fit Broadband Caps, Overage Fees .)

Suddenlink didn't say what caused the inaccurate meter reading, but did note that the evidence indicates that it was due to an "unusual" circumstance. To make sure there is "no room for doubt about the integrity of our program," Suddenlink is now doing the following:

  • Issuing credits to the accounts of the relatively small number of customers billed through this program to date.

  • Waiving future charges until the company corrects the cause of the inaccuracy and has its measurement system reviewed and validated across the board by a trusted third party.


Suddenlink didn't identify any possible candidates, but Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which has begun to test soft broadband caps coupled with overage fees, uses Charlottesville, Va.-based engineering firm NetForecast Inc. to validate the accuracy of the broadband meter it provides to cable modem subs. (See Comcast Lights Up Broadband Bit-Counter , Comcast Turns On Usage-Based Broadband and Comcast to Raise Caps, Test Overage Fees .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
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Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:22:45 PM
re: Suddenlink Puts Broadband Overage Fees on Ice


ISPs would certainly bring out the big guns to fight this, but do you agree with the notion that metered billing and usage-based service models should be regulated like utilities? Or is hiring a "trusted third-party" going to provide satisfaction as more ISPs enact these new policies?


Here's the full statement supplied today by Suddenlink:


Recently, a customer informed us that the Internet usage we measure is generally consistent with the usage he measures, with a major exception on a particular day.  Because we take such questions seriously, we spent time analyzing the related information and circumstances, which included severe weather in the customer’s area and a temporary service outage.

 We concluded that our measurement of this customer’s usage on the day in question was, in fact, inaccurate, although it did not result in the customer being billed. 

 

Furthermore, while this customer was not billed and while the evidence indicates the situation was unusual, we value the relationship we have with our customers and want there to be no room for doubt about the integrity of our program.  For those reasons, we will:

·         Issue credits to the accounts of the relatively small number of customers billed through this program to date

·         Waive future charges until we correct the cause of the inaccuracy and have our measurement system reviewed and validated across the board by a trusted third party.

 

###





 




paolo.franzoi
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paolo.franzoi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:22:44 PM
re: Suddenlink Puts Broadband Overage Fees on Ice


 


Before we even get to 3rd parties, I want to know what they count...


- The full IP packet or just the Datagram


- ICMP Packets?


- ARP?


- DHCP?


- Retransmissions?


- Are they going to turn off RED/WRED?


- What about unsolicated DOS attacks?  


seven


 

Jeff Baumgartner
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Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:22:44 PM
re: Suddenlink Puts Broadband Overage Fees on Ice


The Suddenlink allowance plan doesn't specify to that granular of a level; just says: "Internet usage - also known as 'bandwidth usage' - refers to all of the traffic or data that travels through a customer's cable modem." 


So I'm thinking that any and all on your list would get applied. But they also list some activities that could cause usage to spike without the knowledge of the customer...if they discovered that something like spyware was causing a huge amount of usage and for the cap to be breached, the customer would probably be happy to know that. but if i'm that customer, i'd urge Suddenlink to give me a pass on that month. That sort of situation may also be why Suddenlink applied a three strikes approach in case that sort of anomaly occured. JB

AESerm
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AESerm,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:22:40 PM
re: Suddenlink Puts Broadband Overage Fees on Ice


As for who the 3rd party might be, NetForecast is a good bet. See here for link to the paper Peter Sevcik presented at Cable-Tec Expo last year: "Validating the Accuracy of ISP Subscriber Traffic Usage Meters." NetForecast says there are "many sources of measuremenet inaccuracies" and recommends testing a system end-to-end, rather than just on a component level. 

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