Time Warner Cable Backs Off Metered Internet Pricing, For Now

Cable company faced withering criticism for charging more for heavy downloading

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Poor Beaumont. The Texas town is the remaining outpost for Time Warner Cable's test of higher charges for heavy Internet downloading. The company said Thursday it wouldn't expand the controversial trial to other cities. At least not for now.

The surprise capitulation came after withering criticism on the Web and from politicians. Unlimited downloading could have cost users $150 a month under the plans, with lesser charges for other levels of Web use.

"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," Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt said in a written statement.

Time Warner is one of many Internet providers caught in a perceived conflict of interest. The providers say heavy users will force expensive upgrades to the Internet, and that not all users should have to pay. But critics suspect Time Warner, AT&T and others of trying to protect their pay-TV offerings from Web competitors.

It is Internet video that drives most of the added traffic, and that would force users to pay higher charges under the metered plans.

For now, Time Warner will distribute software so users can see how much bandwidth they are consuming. The company may later expand the tiered-pricing plans to other cities, and will continue testing it in Beaumont.

In poor Beaumont, by the way, AT&T also continues testing its own version of metered bandwidth.