I think this one has to be classified in the “apparent victory” file. Time Warner Cable announced today that it is shelving their proposed bandwidth metering trail that would have come to Austin, San Antonio and two other American cities this year.
Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) today announced it would alter plans to test Consumption Based Billing, shelving the trials while the customer education process continues.
Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Officer Glenn Britt said, “It is clear from the public response over the last two weeks that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about our plans to roll out additional tests on consumption based billing. As a result, we will not proceed with implementation of additional tests until further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met. While we continue to believe that consumption based billing may be the best pricing plan for consumers, we want to do everything we can to inform our customers of our plans and have the benefit of their views as part of our testing process.”
Time Warner Cable also announced that it is working to make measurement tools available as quickly as possible. These tools will help customers understand how much bandwidth they consume and aid in the dialog going forward.
Britt added, “We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Schumer, our customers and all of the other interested parties as the process moves forward, to ensure that informed decisions are made about the best way to continue to provide our customers with the level of service that they expect and deserve from Time Warner Cable.”
Now, Chip over at http://www.austinbroadband.info does make note that this could be interpreted as a delay (albeit an indefinite one) but it's clear that TWC is backing down from the swift public pressure. And I'd like to think that the call to arms here locally, our postings and the gathering of statements from both Leffingwell and McCracken helped send the signal that we would not go down without a fight.
Omar Gallaga over at the Statesman's online Digital Savant blog has been an amazing reporter in all of this. As he pointed out today… (read it, it's good).
So, let’s take a moment and try to figure out what happened and what we learned:
- Introducing something that could affect people’s wallets in a tanking economy will provoke an outcy: For customers who’ve been using Road Runner for years, learning that a major change in billing is coming was cause for concern, especially in this penny-pinching, layoff-rich era. Even if you accept Time Warner’s argument that only 14 percent of its customers might be adversely affected by the new billing, that’s still a lot of people. Many of the other 86 percent (these are Beaumont numbers, remember) were probably worried, too.
- Online mobilization is fast and, apparently, it works: Whether it was on Twitter, Facebook or dedicated Web sites, the response to Time Warner’s plan was almost uniformly negative and swift. On this blog alone, we received about 300 comments on blog entries related to the plan. Believe me, I never get 300 comments about anything. This blog’s not super-popular.
- The caps as they were initially introduced were far too low for the Austin market, a fact even Time Warner acknowledged in a revision to what was in the plan in its first Beaumont test.
- Early adopters, the ones who would have been most affected by TWC’s plan, are also the most vocal online: they spread the word quickly on gadget blogs and that news spread to regional and national media outlets.
What now? I think it’s going to be very difficult for AT&T to entertain the idea of continuing its own metered billing tests in the face of today’s news. What at one time seemed like an inevitability for anyone who has broadband Internet service now is only a possibility and one that seems like an uphill battle for these companies.