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Policy + charging

Charter's Internet Cap to Bare Its Fangs

Charter Communications Inc. confirmed that it will start to enforce its "excessive use" consumption caps later this month, a move that comes more than a year and a half after it first installed the policy. (See Charter Tries On Consumption Caps .)

In concert, the St. Louis-based MSO, taking a page from the Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) playbook, will also launch what it's calling a protocol-agnostic bandwidth management platform that would activate during periods of network congestion. (See Comcast Goes 'Protocol Agnostic' Everywhere .)

Charter verified its plans after a post on the StopTheCap blog noted that the caps would start being enforced by the end of the year.

As noted in Charter's acceptable use policy, the caps are based on the speed of a customer's residential cable modem service tier.

On the low end, Charter's cap is 100 gigabytes per month for service of 15 Mbit/s or less, followed by 250GB per month if it's between 15 Mbit/s and 25 Mbit/s. Charter reportedly plans to add a 500GB cap for its 60Mbit/s Docsis 3.0 Ultra tier, which, for now, is operating free of any usage thresholds.

Charter has reserved the right to adjust, suspend, or terminate accounts if residential customers exceed those consumption limits repeatedly. It may also require those customers to upgrade to a higher level of service.

"The thresholds are substantially above typical use for approximately 98 percent of our customers," an MSO spokesman noted in an email to Light Reading Cable.

As enforcement ramps up, she added, Charter will begin to notify customers who are exceeding the caps starting in December and attempt to root out why -- in case, for example, usage levels are spiking because someone is tapping into an unsecured wireless router.

Charter also intends to launch a meter so customers can check their bandwidth usage. Until then, notified customers will obtain that data directly from a Charter rep.

Comcast has introduced a similar policy, but it caps all residential customer consumption at 250GB per month. Charter and Comcast aren't charging extra for consumption beyond those thresholds. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) tested that idea out, but mothballed it amid a wave of criticism. (See Comcast Draws the Line at 250GB and TWC Mothballs New Metering Trials .)

Charter's protocol-agnostic management system appears to be closely modeled after the one Comcast deployed nationwide following a firestorm about how its older platform discriminated against certain types of upstream file-sharing traffic. (See FCC Throttles Comcast.)

Charter says its new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) -friendly system throttles access speeds during "rare" periods of high congestion and affects only the heaviest of users, less than 1 percent.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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