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Time Warner Testing Metered Internet

A third giant broadband provider has launched an assault on heavy bandwidth users, this time by charging based on the amount of data consumed.Time Warner Cable will begin testing the new pricing model in Beaumont, Texas, later this year. According to company spokesperson Alex Dudley, the move is an attempt to curb heavy peer-to-peer traffic, such as the sharing of movies and other large files. "The idea is to create a more consistent, enhanced experience for our customers," Dudley said. "We can't allow a small percentage of customers to use an inordinate amount of the network to the detriment of the majority of customers."

Time Warner's move is just the latest effort by a large Internet service provider to control the way their customers use the Internet. Comcast drew criticism and, most recently, FCC scrutiny for its throttling of file-sharing traffic; and AT&T last week revealed that it has been considering filtering content at the network level.

The service providers describe these moves in the context of piracy, blaming their bandwidth troubles on copyrighted material illegally traded on peer-to-peer networks. But in the larger picture, they can be seen as weakening the longstanding principle of net neutrality, whereby the Internet does not discriminate among its users. Once providers start favoring or pricing one kind of traffic over another, small businesses could quickly find themselves at a disadvantage against large companies who could pay for better access or get volume discounts.Associate Press via Wired, The Register, CNET News