Policy + charging

Suddenlink Defends Its Broadband Bit Counter

Suddenlink Communications says it's happy with the performance of its broadband byte-counter and investigates potential discrepancies whenever possible.

But some customers have been logging complaints on Broadband Reports, saying that the measurements of their router logs, on occasion, do not match up with Suddenlink's usage meter. One user claimed a severe discrepancy during a day this month in which the customer's router tallied 2.22 gigabytes while Suddenlink's meter showed usage of 23GB. Another claimed that the operator's meter counted data during a power outage.

Suddenlink's residential cable modem customers have become increasingly sensitive about broadband usage ever since the company installed a monthly usage cap last year that charges extra when a customer exceeds it. Customers who take a tier offering more than 30Mbit/s downstream are allotted 350GB per month. If a customer exceeds that monthly ceiling three times, Suddenlink charges $10 per for each extra bucket of 50GB. (See Suddenlink to Fit Broadband Caps, Overage Fees .)

Suddenlink stands by its meter and how it handles complaints about it. "We have listened to these customers and investigated each and every circumstance in which the customer is willing to share the name and address on the account," Suddenlink spokesman Pete Abel said, in a statement. "So far, we have found that our meter is consistently accurate, as was demonstrated in the tests we ran before we launched this program."

According to Suddenlink's Allowance Plan FAQ, its system counts all data transmitted through the cable modem and from all devices connected to and using that modem. It also offers some suggestions on how discrepancies might occur, noting that some "alternative technologies might reset to zero whenever a modem is rebooted," and that high usage could occur without the customer's knowledge if, for example, a PC is infected with a virus or a spyware app.

The complaints are the sort of issues that other operators will need to be prepared to deal with as they implement new usage-based bandwidth policies. Among recent examples, Mediacom Communications Corp. and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) are testing and using similar policies to Suddenlink. In fact, Comcast described how its byte counter works and what outside entity is checking those totals back in 2009, when it was still using a monthly 250GB cap to keep "excessive use" in check. (See Comcast Lights Up Broadband Bit-Counter .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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