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TWC Still Has a Mind for Metering

Jeff Baumgartner

11:15 AM -- In the face of a massive backlash from bloggers and some consumer advocates and politicos, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) shelved its plans to expand metered Internet billing trials in markets beyond Beaumont, Texas. (See TWC Mothballs New Metering Trials , TWC Dons Larger Consumption Caps, and Congressman Mad About TWC's Internet Meter .)

However, the MSO still thinks metered billing is the way of the Internet future, and has left itself some wiggle room to reintroduce the concept on a wider basis sometime down the road. That much was evident based on the remarks TWC chairman, president, and CEO Glenn Britt made this morning at the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. Strategic Decisions Conference in New York City.

Britt reiterated TWC's position that Internet users should expect to pay based on usage, particularly as speeds continue to increase and customers tap in to support apps and services that gobble up massive amounts of capacity.

"The broadband product [has been] defined so far just based on speed, and that is… deeply embedded in the marketplace to the point where it has become somewhat meaningless," Britt said. "We never really had the element of consumption in the picture, which is actually going to be more of an important dimension, I think, over time."

Although Britt didn't serve up any specific economics to back up the concept, he thinks metered billing will produce a fair model for light and heavy Internet users.

"I still think some notion of you use less and pay less, use more and pay more, will ultimately be what happens. But we will see," he said, admitting that TWC did a poor job communicating its metered billing plans, and pointing out that it's not a foreign concept in Canada and some other parts of the world. (See Rogers Takes Internet Meter to the Masses.)

Cord-cutting not cutting deeply… yet
Britt was also asked to address the phenomenon of "cord-cutting," whereby consumers turn off their cable TV subscriptions and use high-speed Internet connections to handle all their TV viewing needs. (See 'Cord-Cutting' No Threat.)

Britt acknowledged that it's happening in a "very minute, hard-to-measure way… and there [are] probably more newspaper articles about this than reality."

Still, he was wary of a potential surge in cord-cutting if anything and everything was offered for free via the Web. "I have just made a simple observation that if, at an extreme, you could get all of the programming you get over cable for free on the Internet, over time people will stop buying… a video offering of cable or satellite or telco, and just buy broadband."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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