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Time Warner Shutting Off Austin Accounts For Heavy Usage 591

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-threw-them-a-shovel dept.
mariushm writes "After deciding to shelve metered broadband plans, it looks like Time Warner is cutting off, with no warning, the accounts of customers whom they deem to have used too much bandwidth. 'Austin Stop The Cap reader Ryan Howard reports that his Road Runner service was cut off yesterday without warning. According to Ryan, it took four calls to technical support, two visits to the cable store to try two new cable modems (all to no avail), before someone at Time Warner finally told him to call the company's "Security and Abuse" center. "I called the number and had to leave a voice mail, and about an hour later a Time Warner technician called me back and lectured me for using 44 gigabytes in one week," Howard wrote. Howard was then "educated" about his usage. "According to her, that is more than most people use in a year," Howard said.'"
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Time Warner Shutting Off Austin Accounts For Heavy Usage

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  • 44? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anonieuweling (536832) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:28AM (#27712569)
    44 GB?
    That is just 10 DVD's!
    Not even two per day for a wholeweek!
    Why is that abuse if he paid for bandwidth and the didn't tell him that there is a lower limit?
  • Re:The rise of Hulu (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:32AM (#27712603)
    Wouldn't surprise me if the telecoms begin lobbying for legislation against sites like Hulu and Netflix.
  • Re:Two words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smidge207 (1278042) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:35AM (#27712623) Journal

    Agreed and THIS: I tried to cancel all my TWC services over the phone. When asked why I told him because of their caps. I told him I'd be willing to come back if/when Time Warner states explicitly that they will not cap internet usage.

    In the meantime I told him I'm taking my business to ATT. The rep proceeds to argue with me about metered usage for a good 5 minutes telling me that ATTs terms of service state they can meter at any time, and blah blah blah. To which I responded if/when ATT does meter in Austin I'll consider coming back to Time Warner if they aren't metering but I'm still leaving you guys now because ATT isn't metering in Austin.

    He continues to argue the same ridiculous points telling me that the metering was only internet rumor and they weren't going to do that. My reply was something like what about your COOs statement about the metering or your PR reps Tweets?. It's all rumors. Finally I said, fuck it, fine, just cancel it all you aren't going to change my mind.

    He says "Well I can't disconnect over the phone, you have to bring the equipment to your local office."

    I hope he's reading this...thanks for wasting my time D-Bag. I'm bringing the equipment up there today.

    =Smidge=

  • Re:And then imagine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by downix (84795) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:43AM (#27712707) Homepage

    But is that the customers fault or the ISP's for not meeting demand?

  • All You Can Eat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:51AM (#27712787) Homepage Journal

    You don't advertise an all-you-can-eat buffet, and then kick out a customer when they sit down and eat for three hours straight.

    Metering use or at least advertising you have a bandwidth usage policy is better than just getting your line cut when they decide you've had enough for the month.

    If that happens to me, *I* will be the one giving the lecture, and I will be receiving a credit for the time that my service was down, and I will be receiving additional credit for the inconvenience if they first sent me out to try new cable modems before actually telling me what happened. (though it sounds like in this case many of the reps there are not aware of the policies)

    The reason we see them try to pull this BS (and frequently get away with it) is because customers let themselves get pushed around, walked all over, and generally taken advantage of.

    They don't want to scare off new customers by advertising any limits, but at the same time they want to enforce limits. Can't have it both ways. Imagine going to a restaurant on a saturday all you can eat buffet to have a big breakfast with your family, and as you are parking you see the advert in the window for saturday morning all-you-can-eat, and notice the little note at the bottom, "(we will kick you out if you eat more than $20 worth of food)". Tell me YOU wouldn't find somewhere else to eat breakfast? So it's not surprising they don't want to disclose anything like that.

  • by bmullan (1425023) <bmullan&yahoo,com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:54AM (#27712821)
    Almost every cable company is regulated by state/local government commissions - usually a utility commission.

    Unless your TWC contract specifically states you cannot use above X amount... as long as you pay your monthly bill they cannot shut off your service!

    Report them. Let them lose their franchise with your city and see what they think then.
  • Re:She was right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mariushm (1022195) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:57AM (#27712841)

    I've actually bought last night the Orange Box from Valve, because they have a promotion this weekend: http://store.steampowered.com/sub/469/ [steampowered.com]

    So far, I've installed Half-Life 2: Lost Coast and Team Fortress 2 and these two games downloaded from Steam servers 8024 MB, because some resources are shared between these games in the package.

    The estimated bandwidth usage required for the rest is:
      860 MB Half-Life 2
    2160 MB Half-Life 2: Episode One
    6132 MB Half-Life 2: Episode Two
    2606 MB Portal

    So we're looking at 19GB that I could burn through in a single day with my 20mbps connection.

    Keeping in mind that most games are 6-8GB nowadays and some come up at promotional prices like 5-10$ from time to time, I don't believe using 25-50GB in abusing the internet connection you've paid for.

    On the contrary, the ISP is abusing the poor people that don't require fast connections making money from plans those people don't use.

    As I said in other discussions, I personally am opposed to usage caps but I'm not opposed to pay per bandwidth used provided the transition from unmetered to pay per traffic is done fairly for the consumer.

    What I'm trying to say is that, if a consumer currently has a 10mbps plan and pays $50 for it, the customer expects that he should be able to use at least half of that anytime he wants during a month. It's not something unreasonable.

    So if a company decided to switch to billing him for bandwidth, the plan should cost a small fee for the equipment and for certain speed steps, like $10-15, and then the payment per GB should not be much higher than the previous plan, because it's not fair to pay for less.

    So: 8 mbps unmetered gives you around 2.8TB of traffic if used to the max all month, and you pay for this $50.
    Let's assume a reasonable usage of this connection would be half of that, so we're looking at 1.4TB (1400 GB) for 50$.

    This means an equivalent pay per traffic plan could be:

    $10 - base subscription
    $0 - capped at 5mbps
      +$5 - raise cap to 10mbps
      +$10 - raise cap to 20mbps
      [...]
      +$40 - raise cap to 50mbps
    $0 - 10 GB of traffic included in the plan (more if cap raised higher than base 5mbps)
    $0.03 - 1 GB of data transferred from Internet to computer (cheaper if cap raised higher than base 5mbps)
    $0.05 - 1 GB of data transferred from computer to Internet

    The $0.03 is determined from 50$ / 1400 GB. Upload bandwidth costs more because it often costs the companies more and I want to be fair with them.

    With this plan, mom and dad will pay $10 bucks.
    A very heavy user with a 10mbps connection using it to the max will pay 10$ + $5 for 10mbps cap + $99 (0.03 x 3300GB) = $120

    In theory, ISP companies will compete and bring prices down but in US as long as there are monopolies I doubt it will happen even with a change like this.

  • Re:WTF ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @09:59AM (#27712855) Journal
    As noed above: all you need is a family of 4 watching Hulu, and you'll blow through 44gigs in a week, easily.

    This goes someplace, so bear with me.

    For a few weeks I went on a DL kick where I decided to do all my vinyl into digital. I have 1104 vinyl LPs. About 1/3 I bought the CD for because I liked the convenience. I have bought hundreds of CDs as well - I now own about 1400 CDs.

    I ripped all the CDs into a drive over the period of a few months, and the drive became part of a gigantic home jukebox of some 27,000 songs running off of iTunes on a MacBook.

    So, that left me at around 840 records on vinyl. I could buy a USB turntable and spend hours digitising and labeling it, and I seriously considered that - there are some fairly decent digital turntables out there.

    But then I thought: hold on... let's do the math. 840 records, each taking about 1.5 hours EACH to digitise, cut apart in Audacity, and then put the ID tags in as I export as MP3. So, now we're looking at around 1300 hours. So, if I do four records a week, that will take 6 hours a week and 4 years of my life...

    Fuck. That. Shit.

    So, I went link hunting and found some systems like chewbone.blogspot.com where I enter in the record I'm looking for and a series of links for DL come up. YAY!

    So, each record at 192 is about 80 megs, or about 12 per gig with a result of about 70gigs of music. Over the period of a few weeks idling on vacation, I was able to do this.

    And now, I'm done. So the ISP would have seen a massive splurge in activity. And I now have 32,183 songs on my drive, and a lot of it digitised version of vinyl that some kind soul had the patience to sample and upload to a file system.

    I learned a lot about those file systems, too. I now officially hate rapidshare. They're good if ou pay them, but they suck monkey balls if you don't. Megaupload is often slower than rapidshare, but they don't insist on a 15 minute waiting period. The best is mediafire. Also, as a mac user using Stuffit Deluxe, all you people using .rar files can go fuck yourselves. Zip files work JUST FINE thank you, and they open easily in OSX. And to think zip files were "those funky windows things"...

    So, anyway, had my ISP been itchy about bandwidth, I'd have been shut down for doing something that isn't (per my intent) "evil". I was just looking for digital copies of my incredible and incredibly obscure vinyl collection. And I was rather scrupulous about it, too. Example: DOME. They had 4 records, I only have the first one on vinyl. I only DL'd the first one. If I want the others, I can go find the vinyl or buy the CD.

    NOw, I'm not making some case for flawless seamless integrity or consistency, but I am sugesting that in the greater scheme of things, ISP choking bandwidth will result in people abandoning ISPs....

    RS

  • Soon only the rich (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Neptunes_Trident (1452997) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:20AM (#27713037)
    will be allowed to create and educate themselves on the internet. The moment someone creates a limit on how much information one can send or access is the moment the divide between rich and poor begins. There is no bandwidth congestion, look at all the other countries with HUGE amounts of bandwidth to each individual person. Over here, we make money by bandwidth limitation. When we should be making money by bandwidth creation like every other country. We suck and so do our companies. We are killing our own culture and limiting creation and education with these bandwidth caps.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:31AM (#27713121)

    I use an EVDO Rev A card for field work, and I am a light user. email, web, etc. No Windows service packs, no downloads, no torrent, no itunes, no porn, no movies. The card is expen$ive for data over my limit (3G / month). oh... and I only use it for field work; I don't do my home surfing on it.

    I hit 2 G easy every month which is 24 G per year for a VERY light user. If I didn't purposely control my usage it would be very easy to hit 3 G per month.

    10 years ago, web pages were 10 to 20 k bytes, now they are 150 to 250k or more. People send picnic pictures attached to emails that total 50 megs. I get my daughters gymnastics notices (single pages with about 600 bytes of text) wrapped in a Word doc with backgrounds and headers that total megabytes. This is a FAT DATA world!

    I would certainly say 44G per week is a high user but not extreme.

    The ISP may have some legitimacy for surcharging for overage (don't know what "Turbo" is) but cutting off without notice is just plain wrong.

  • by brxndxn (461473) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @10:32AM (#27713133)

    The future of cable TV is 'a la carte' over the Internet..

    As long as I have a fast Internet connection, and a box for every TV (kind of like my fucking cable company now), I could have every service the cable company delivers now.. except then I would have more options from decentralized cable providers all over the world.

  • Re:And then imagine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weedhopper (168515) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:27AM (#27713585)

    No, it's not.

    I'm sick of hearing this excuse from Americans as an excuse to why Korean, Japanese, and Europeans have long since leapfrogged us in technology infrastructures.

    Americans just flat out refuse to acknowledge when they aren't number one. I got news. We're not #1. We're not #2. We're not even in the top ten. And we DON'T have an excuse.

    There are major urbanized areas in the US with a land area and population density equivalent to all of these other places with high speed broadband. Why don't we have real broadband on the NE coast? Why don't we have real broadband on the California coast?

    Face it. TW and companies like it are no longer a part of the solution. They're not even a part of the problem. They ARE the problem.

  • Re:Two words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:34AM (#27713663) Journal

    I used to be be agains government until I had to use my local pubic utilities commission (PUC) to get a problem solved. In a matter of days, they evaluated the problem, directed SBC to fix it, and demanded I received a discounted service for the 4 months of pissing with them.

    Obviously, if everyone jumped at once, they would probably be over loaded but I think this is a clear case where it's warranted. As you mentioned, state laws do put limitations on "any reason", especially if the reason covered some marketing campaign designed to get customers. Really, think about this, if they say speeds up to 5 megs and always on, regardless of what the fine print says or doesn't say, anyone would assume they are going to always get 5 megs that they can use. If that results in bandwidth usage above what they think it appropriate, then tought titties for them.

    If nothing else, the PUC can force them to advertise correctly so that people know what the hell is up. As for the op using 44 gig in a week, some DVD live Linux distros are 4 gig or better, Trying out one or two of those plus a net install with all the bells and whistles with a screw up and retry can easily come close to that without trying. now imaging streaming a couple of TV programs or something from Hulu which adds junk data to the stream to confuse rippers and your there quite easily.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:46AM (#27713779)

    I'm surprised to not see anyone else point out what is really happening. They are attempting to manipulate the data collection process! They collected data in Beaumont which said 86% (or something) of people wouldn't be impacted by their caps. They have now turned their eyes to Austin (and other cities) and started collecting data for their re-education campaign to promote caps. Obviously Austinites user much more and they are seeing this as they look at the data. Therefore, they are simply shutting down "heavy users" during their collection phase. By doing this, they can show that "the average users doesn't consume more than 40GB in a month". The REASON that barely anyone will consume more than that is they close the connection for those who do. Brilliantly evil in a way but a complete manipulation of what they data will say with regard to real usage.

  • Re:And then imagine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robert AT chromablue DOT net> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @11:48AM (#27713807)
    Agreed. I was in the US in 2000. Simi Valley, just outside LA. Friend there had a 5mbps cable connection. Checked his ISP's site today out of curiosity. They -still- offer that plan, and it's still $50/month. Face it, this excuse is getting old. Connections that haven't been upgraded in a DECADE is not a problem of "OMG, but America is soooo BIG!".
  • by Malevolyn (776946) <signedlongint.gmail@com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:04PM (#27713947) Homepage
    Believe it or not, back in the dial up days we had unlimited for $20/mo., and the number was local so that cost nothing extra. I was fairly young, so there might have been a usage cap without me knowing, but we never once couldn't connect. Go Concentric!
  • Re:And then imagine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@neverb o x . com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:13PM (#27714019) Homepage

    Video streaming of TV shows makes no sense, period.

    People, in general, know what TV shows they watch. The amount of people browsing Hulu looking for new shows is maybe 5%, and everyone else is looking for a specific show, usually a specific episode of that show. There is no logical reason for 95% of 'streaming TV' to stream.

    A trivial solution is to just have them all up as torrent that get downloaded via rss or something.

    If the networks want to retain control over said videos, it would be easy enough to encrypt them and provide proprietary player software. And, if they do that, they can actually let people download them well before the broadcast, and then release the encryption key whenever so they can actually be watched. They could even not have 'skip' buttons on their interface, so everyone watches commercials.

    They'd have exactly the same amount of control over videos as before, in fact they'd have more, they'd have much less bandwidth, especially at a single moment in time, and ISPs would quickly set up proxy servers that downloaded every TV show available using this method once.

    In fact, if the TV networks were clever, they'd have a free service for ISPs to do just that, and give them ability to download a show a hour before everyone else had it, so they'd have it already cached when the nightly downloads started. (Of course, a hypothetical universe where TV networks were clever would probably be different in so many other ways that talking about 'ISPs' or 'human beings' or 'the existence of linear time' is probably just silly...such a universe would be so different those things would not exist.)

    It's really hard to see how things would be worse with this system, especially if they used a good encryption algorithm that was not crackable before the key was distributed. Which would mean that no one can get them in advance, and, yes, people would provide cracks to permanently decrypt the files after the key was released to let you play them in a normal player...but, of course, they'd still have ads, so who cares? (And the people who would cut out the ads and distribute them like that are already doing that with digital recordings off satellites that don't have ads to start with!)

  • Re:And then imagine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:17PM (#27714641)

    Video streaming of TV shows makes no sense, period.

    Wow, you really can't think of any possible situations outside your own can you? Way to think inside a very narrow box, my man.

    Streaming has a huge advantage over traditional TV in that you can watch what you want, whenever you want to. This is not possible with any kind of multicast service, with multicast (cable TV is multicast system) you are locked in to the transmition date and time. It can be "shifted" later by recording at one of the destinations, which is pretty efficient, but your shifting device is still locked in to that date and time.

    For example, because of what I do and where I work, I can only watch TV from about 11pm EST until technically 11am EST, though I need 8 hours of sleep in there so it's actually 11pm till 3am. That's my window, and I don't have access to a DVR. Know how many shows I want to watch are on at those times? None. Does that mean there aren't shows I want to watch? Of course there are! And video streaming is the only way to do it.

    So take off your blinders and think of other reasons why someone might want to use the service. Hulu would not exist, and certainly would not be profitable, if streaming video made no sense. Period.

  • Re:And then imagine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ecuador (740021) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:10PM (#27715115) Homepage

    Right, the low population density myth. I have been trying for the last 2 years to get a decent connection in 4 locations in NYC. Two in Manhattan (ZIP 10023 & 10010) one in Brooklyn (11209) and one in Queens (11105). No fiber available in any of these places. Only options: DSL 3/768 for $35/month or Cable 5/512 for $60/month. I repeat, 512kbps upload at 60 friggin' dollars a month. IN THE MIDDLE OF NYC. Yeah, the problem is population density.
    Since last year the Manhattan location got another option! ADSL2 with a maximum at 12/2 - woohoo. Strange that they don't go up to 24Mbit like in Europe, but anyway 12 should be plenty so I called (no prices at that point on the Speakeasy website). They gave me the low price of just : $180/MONTH!!! Ok, it came with static IP but then they also said I was close to 3 miles away from their center (I think even before taking into account that I am on the 48th floor) so I shouldn't expect anything close to 12Mbit ( although I would be paying for that)...
    Interestingly, friends in rather sparsely populated areas of Long Island have been enjoying FiOS for 3-4 years now, so I take offense at that BS about the US population density.

  • Re:And then imagine (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:11PM (#27715691)

    Consider this: Given that users are willing to accept a short "buffering" delay, multicast streaming can significantly reduce the number of concurrent streams (and actually provide a fixed upper bound for the number of necessary streams depending on the length of the show.) Provide 12 streams which loop the first minute of the show, with an offset of 5 seconds between the streams (5 seconds max until "your" stream starts, 5 seconds for actual buffering, resulting in 5 to 10 seconds until the video starts). These twelve streams give the client a one minute window to also latch onto another stream which provides the rest of the show with a maximum timeshift requirement of 1 minute. The rest of the show is then likewise streamed in several instances with an offset of 1 minute (number of streams equals the length of the show minus one minute). If you want, you can provide 12 streams for each minute of the show to facilitate jumping through the video, or you can make the client do the work by subscribing to several multicast streams right from the start. Either way, the number of streams does not depend on the number of viewers, just on the length of the show.

    The worst case is that the client network has to transport the same exact data which would have been the unicast stream, if only very few subscribers watch the same show. In reality the backbone connections of major last-mile provider networks would see dramatic reductions in bandwidth usage from streaming services.

    The only problem with this scheme is that the same network operators which cry bloody murder over unicast streaming are also the biggest competitors to the online video streaming services, so they really have no incentive to enable multicasting on their networks. They want streaming to fail.

  • by Renegade Iconoclast (1415775) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:23PM (#27715773)

    I live in Austin, and I moved recently, and after the tech guy went up in my attic, I ended up with the cable modem being set up in a bedroom.

    After he left, a lady purporting to be from TW called. She said it was very important that I not move my cable modem. She repeated herself 3 times but wouldn't tell me why.

    I sort of didn't believe it, and so I moved it soon after to use with my XBox360, because that pig is wired.

    Works fine. I was wondering if maybe they installed a usage meter on just one outlet or something. That seemed pretty tinfoil-ish, but now that I see this story, and it relates to Austin specifically, I wonder.

  • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SQLGuru (980662) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @03:47PM (#27715931) Journal

    Grande is mostly in apartments in Austin. I've submitted my address regularly over the past three or four years checking to see if I could get their service yet. I was at one time under Cox (out of Georgetown) but was forced over to Time Warner. AT&T is just now (within the past three months) available in my neighborhood at anything higher than the lowest tier. I'm not a torrent user, but I'm thinking that all of this dicking around will lead me to switch to AT&T before the end of the summer.

    In fact, I think we Austinites need to form some angry mobs and picket their offices.

  • Re:Three Letters (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @07:20PM (#27717369) Homepage
    Actually, seventeen days would be sufficient to download 44 GB of data over a 33 Kb modem.

    128 Kb ISDN could do it in 4.3 days ...

    So, TWRR cut this guy off for using about half the bandwidth available from ISDN ...

  • Re:And then imagine (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @07:54PM (#27717537)

    An example: A top 40 music title (4 minutes long) can be multicast-streamed on demand to an unlimited number of listeners with just 13 streams, if you accept a 0-5 second delay until the streaming starts. Streaming the whole Top 40 on demand that way at 192kbps takes just 100Mbps, without a limit on the number of listeners!

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