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I’m paying Time Warner Cable about $50 a month for its “Standard Internet” package, which promises downstream speeds of 10 Mbps and has, in reality, been delivering data to me at around 8 Mbps. That’s good enough to stream Netflix and other video on my TV at a quality that rivals cable TV.
But, look, faster is better. And last night, when I got home, I found an intriguing offer in my mailbox from RCN, the only alternative to Time Warner in my neighborhood: $50 a month for internet at a blazing fast 50 Mbps (plus network TV). I don’t think RCN has any way of knowing what kind of service I’m receiving from Time Warner, but this offer — “Surf, stream and share for a price you’ll love” — seems squarely aimed at cord cutters.
Time Warner’s rate for service at that speed, which they call “Ultimate Internet,” is $100 a month. Verizon FiOS can deliver speeds over fiber-optic lines even faster than that, but it’s not available where I live.
I don’t think I’d want to go through the hassle of switching, and I’m skeptical that RCN, which doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation in New York, can provide reliable service or hit speeds of 50 Mbps. But the mailer did make me think I should give Time Warner a call and see if they would cut me a deal. Judging by a friend’s previous experience, my guess is that Time Warner wouldn’t budge on price but might offer me “Turbo Internet,” which promises 15 Mbps and typically costs an additional $10 a month, for free.
It’s frustrating to think that the same cable line that currently delivers me internet at 8 Mbps is capable of hitting speeds more than five times faster. I’m just being throttled. But I know that the system couldn’t handle 50 Mbps service for everyone in New York City, so the structure makes sense to me.
Which makes today’s news all the more interesting: Comcast is testing a new pricing structure for internet service based on usage. That would hit people like me much harder because I can deal with my current, pretty standard connection but can’t help but consume a ton of data. How much data? Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who ought to know about this sort of thing, says an episode of Saturday Night Live “eats up about one gigabyte of my cap,” and Comcast is testing additional fees for customers who consume more than 300 GB a month. Dan Frommer views that cap as high.
AT&T, Verizon, and others have been imposing various kinds of limits on usage of wireless broadband internet for a little while now, but Comcast’s test points to the inevitably of caps on wired service, too. It’s the most aggressive such experiment with cable-internet pricing that I’ve seen but not the first… Time Warner Cable is playing with caps in South Texas.