More Cable Companies Eyeing Metered Internet Service

NEW YORK - Following the lead of Time Warner, two more major cable companies are prepared to introduce metered Internet service to subscribers.


Just days after Time Warner announced it would begin testing a service to have customers pay a nominal fee for high-speed Internet usage that exceeds monthly allowances, Comcast and AT&T announced similar plans.


Some technology blogs have criticized the plan, saying it would affect customers' interest in watching online videos and anger those who currently pay for unlimited service.


The idea is that people who use the network more heavily should pay more, the way they do for water, electricity or, in many cases, cell-phone minutes.

Comcast announced last week it would expand its strategy of slowing down the connections of the heaviest users, so-called "bandwidth hogs," at peak times.


AT&T also said last week that limits on heavy use were inevitable and that it was considering pricing based on data volume.


"Based on current trends, total bandwidth in the AT&T network will increase by four times over the next three years," the company said.


Time Warner, Comcast and AT&T say placing caps on broadband use will ensure fair access for all users.


Critics of bandwidth limits say metering and capping network use could hold back the inevitable convergence of television, computers and the Internet.


However, the companies imposing the caps say their actions are fair. People who use more network capacity should pay more, Time Warner argues. According to Comcast, people who use too much - like those who engage in file sharing - should be forced to slow down.