said by Pete Abel:
I'm with the company. A few things to keep in mind ...
Also -- keep in mind -- this is all just a test. I'd like to thank those who have acknowledged it as such and noted that we are in fact taking it slow on this matter AND THAT (versus what other co's have done) this is all pretty benign ... if not beneficial.
With all due respect, "tests" have a nasty habit of becoming reality soon enough. "Benign" and "beneficial" are words that I'd associate more with the company's perspective than that of consumers. No provider spends time and resources to develop usage measuring tools without having a plan at some point to begin setting limits on consumption, with threats of service suspension or overlimit fees and penalties being the result of "going over the limit."
I've seen this all before, not from one, but several broadband providers, two in my own area. Suddenlink may be slightly cleverer in its approach, and more cautious about its ultimate goal to implement Internet Overcharging schemes, but the recipe is always the same:
1) It follows the usual pattern of framing the issue around the concept of broadband data being similar to gas, electric, or water service, using the language of "meters" to measure consumption, and inevitably, the talking point of "customers paying for what they use."
The fact is, broadband service is -not- at all like gas, electric or water service.
Consumers can always use this simple test to see if they are being manipulated - does the provider compare its broadband service pricing and measurement to its closest cousin - telephone service? No? Then it's a ploy to extract more money from customer wallets, sooner or later.
Cable operators don't like to talk about the fact their networks most closely resemble telephone networks, which deal in the same kind of data traffic that broadband networks do. To do so risks the inevitable, justified question from consumers -- why are you measuring and/or billing me for my broadband usage when I am now paying flat rate for my telephone line?
Broadband costs are declining, not increasing. Responsible network investments to manage and improve broadband service is the price of doing a very profitable business. It sounds like Suddenlink could be spending a lot more time improving its service and getting their customer ratings up than creating schemes that I guarantee will eventually cost customers more... potentially a lot more, for their broadband service.
2) Users are "educated" about their average consumption, and then when the caps and tiers show up, they are deceived into thinking that they will only penalize those "heavy downloaders" that providers routinely turn into "us vs. them" scenarios. Of course, today's "reasonable" usage is tomorrow's unreasonably restrictive limit. Such limits have a habit of becoming slow to move upwards, and even more frequently are reduced, subjecting more and more customers to overlimit fees which inevitably also turn up as part of the scheme.
Suddenlink hopes to de-fang customer opposition by suggesting the majority of customers will not be impacted by any future capping scheme.
3) The "sounds like a lot" statistics that always accompany these schemes always tell consumers they can send a jillion e-mails or download thousands of MP3 songs. Few venture too far into the impact such limits have on online video and file transfer networks. YouTube statistics are irrelevant to a growing number of consumers who may spend time there, but are not watching the long-form television programming and movies, in increasingly high quality, that more and more turn to these days. Given the choice of watching "Sam trashes his bike v2.0" on YouTube or the latest episode of a popular hour long drama in HD on sites like Hulu or Amazon (or Netflix's set top box), most people aren't going to be spending a lot of time with Sam.
In the absence of any other online activity, statistics which are limited to one application, as Suddenlink offers, are not relevant to today's broadband user. How many HD movies can consumers watch while also sending e-mail, downloading songs and files, and doing online backups with a 25GB monthly limit? Reveal that, and consumers will take notice and get angry fast.
I do appreciate your statistics about online usage on Suddenlink, as they are wildly out of sync with the overwhelming majority of much larger broadband providers who have been feeding us much lower "typical usage" numbers for more than a year now. Just a year ago, Frontier Communications was telling us the majority of their DSL customers were barely breaking 1GB of usage per month. Time Warner Cable was putting their numbers around the 5GB mark for "average customers." To see "up to 21GB" of usage for your light/low speed tier is an incredible departure from those numbers, which either will earn you bonus points for honesty or a spanking from the national trade association and lobbyists for letting the cat out of the bag - broadband usage is higher than they let on, and they refuse to allow access to the raw data to prove their contention that the majority use far less.
Honestly, we have never felt there was anything wrong with contacting customers who rack up an enormous amount of usage, because customers can become unknowing spam merchants or one of the kids is running peer to peer software 24/7 leaving the rest of the household wondering why their connection is so slow.
But unless Suddenlink is prepared to be happy with the potential answer that their customers are simply using their broadband connection to take advantage of the variety of high bandwidth services that justify a subscription to "High Speed Online" service, and will guarantee customers that no usage caps or tiered pricing based on consumption is forthcoming, Suddenlink will take a place on our "bad actors" list of providers who are laying the foundation to eventually overcharge their customers for broadband service.--
Phillip M. Dampier
Editor, Stop the Cap!