Here It Comes Again!

I know many of you thought that the whole Time Warner Cable tiered service debacle was behind us because they had “listened to their customers’ feedback” and scrapped the new rate plan. But Apparently they were just going back to lawyer-up.

Unnoticed by most all of us this month was a very very tiny font modification to their terms of service included in the most recent bill. Apparently by paying the bill, you’ve agreed to the new terms. What you agreed to is:

6. Special Provisions Regarding HSD Service

(ii) I agree that TWC or ISP may change the Maximum Throughput Rate of any tier by amending the price list or Terms of Use. My continued use of the HSD Service following such a change will constitute my acceptance of any new Maximum Throughput Rate. If the level or tier of HSD Service to which I subscribe has a specified limit on the amount of bytes that I can use in a given billing cycle, I also agree that TWC may use technical means, including but not limited to suspending or reducing the speed of my HSD Service, to ensure compliance with these limits, and that TWC or ISP may move me to a higher tier of HSD Service (which may result in higher monthly charges) or impose other charges and fees if my use exceeds these limits.

(iii) I agree that TWC may use Network Management Tools as it determines appropriate and/or that it may use technical means, including but not limited to suspending or reducing the Throughput Rate of my HSD Service, to ensure compliance with its Terms of Use and to ensure that its service operates efficiently. I further agree that TWC and ISP have the right to monitor my bandwidth usage patterns to facilitate the provision of the HSD Service and to ensure my compliance with the Terms of Use and to efficiently manage their networks and their provision of services. TWC or ISP may take such steps as each may determine appropriate in the event my usage of the HSD Service does not comply with the Terms of Use. I acknowledge that HSD Service does not include other services managed by TWC and delivered over TWC’s shared infrastructure, including Video Service and Digital Phone Service.

In essence, we’ve all agreed that they can impose the rate caps, charge us overage fees, change us to different rate plans if we go over the cap, throttle our service, or pretty much anything else. Note that this applies retroactively, so those of you who are “locked-in” to a rate for some period are not exempt from this either.

Most telling is that what is exempted from potential caps is their own Digital TV and VoIP phone service. To be clear, these services hog up the same precious bandwidth they claim to be so short of. So apparently they don’t have the bandwidth to cope with you watching Netflix online, but their Movies on Demand service works just fine. Similarly, your use of Skype or Vonage is killing them, so maybe you should sign up for TW Phone service. They’ve pretty much just confessed to this being an effort to give them a competitive advantage for their non-ISP services.

It would also seem they have pretty well limited their customer’s rights to do any more than just whine. And in non-competitive markets, that’s about all they can do. The only recourse will likely be legislative, and I’m sure their lobbyists are hard at woirk already making sure the government won’t step in here to help. It would seem our only recourse is to hope that some other high speed service opts to come into the area. But that will be years away at best. In the meantime, BOHICA.

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