The meter's not running... yet

The news that Time Warner Cable suspended plans to expand the practice of metered billing for Internet usage doesn't come as too much of a surprise, given the vast amount of criticism the plans generated. Still, I think TWC would have been perfectly content to proceed with the metered usage plan had it only been consumers and competitors criticizing the company about it. Once a legislator--Sen. Charles Schumer, (D.-N.Y.)--got involved, a pull-back seemed much more likely.

TWC probably doesn't want to become the poster boy for Net neutrality anymore than Comcast did when it was criticized and eventually punished by the Federal Communications Commission over its traffic-shaping policies. But, proponents of metered Internet usage need not worry, because the concept is far from dead. What TWC, and other service providers with similar plans, may have realized is that it needs to better communicate and better promote what metered usage means for most consumers.

Telecom service providers continually prove to be somewhat inept in negotiating their way around the arena of public opinion. As with a similarly controversial concept, targeted advertising, they have not come prepared to show how metered usage could have positive effects. Perhaps they should talk about how it might improve overall service performance and reliability. They also might want to think seriously about using "value meal" mentality to promote tiered usage plans.

If they can't communicate these aspects--or if they don't truly exist--then metered usage will continue to be a tough sell. They can argue all they want that unlimited bandwidth pricing is an anomaly in the broader world, but the Internet masses won't buy that argument, and neither will the legislators that represent them. Still, metered usage plans will make a comeback sooner rather than later, and once service providers figure out how to provide a more positive spin on them, everyone will end up getting what they want.

-Dan

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