Suddenlink plans to charge based on how much Internet you use

Gabe Semenza

Jan. 14, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.

If you tried to save a buck by ditching Suddenlink's cable TV service to consume video programming online, you might want to change the channel.

Suddenlink has joined other companies that meter your Internet usage and charge overage fees to customers who bust a monthly data cap. The more data you consume online while at home, the greater your bill could become.

While the company won't say when the usage rates will roll out in the Crossroads, Suddenlink already has begun the program elsewhere.

Armando Cordero, a 37-year-old Victoria father of two, subscribes to Suddenlink's cable TV and Internet services. While he doesn't foresee consuming more data than his Internet cap would allow, he disagrees in principal with the fee structure, he said.

"It's like they're saying, 'If you don't get video from our cable or OnDemand service, and you get your video through Netflix, Xbox or elsewhere online, we're going to penalize you for that,' " Cordero said. "This could hurt a lot of consumers."

The move by Suddenlink and other companies to charge Internet overage fees is linked to a staggering increase in usage of iTunes, Netflix and Hulu - online providers of movies, TV programming and more.

In 2010, 2.5 million American households viewed TV shows and movies online only; by 2015, that number will grow to 12.5 million, according to PC World, a computing publication.

This five-fold increase only solidifies this truism: Reliance on the Web only grows. How often do you send and receive emails, watch video, check your Facebook account, browse YouTube or play online games and movies? Each time you do, you consume data - large amounts of data if it's video you're consuming.

Some technology pundits say Suddenlink, AT&T, Comcast and other providers are metering Internet usage to protect their cable TV subscription. After all, Internet usage is not a consumable like water. Why would companies charge more for a service that already flows readily in the pipeline?

Pete Abel, a Suddenlink corporate spokesman, said the new plan likely will not affect you. Ninety-nine percent of residential Internet customers will not surpass their Internet cap and thus not incur additional fees, he said, citing historic usage data.

This new plan, which Suddenlink calls the Allowance Plan, is a fair approach to ensure the 1 percent of heavy Internet users don't hurt the other 99 percent, he said.

"Consider that households could watch more than 10 hours of Internet video per day plus engage in other favorite online activities - email, Facebook, etc. - and still be well within the generous allowance we've established for their services," Abel said via email. "Compare that 10 hours a day to the Nielsen-estimated average of four hours of traditional TV viewing per day."

Suddenlink measures your Internet usage by the number of gigabytes you consume through your modem - including consumption on devices such as smart phones and tablet computers that connect via WiFi. To illustrate the worth of a gigabyte, you could in that amount of data send 50,000 single-page emails with no attachments, Suddenlink says.

Your monthly usage cap will be determined by the Internet service speed by which you subscribe. The faster and more expensive your service is, the bigger cap you get.

This includes a:

150-gigabyte cap for download service of speeds less than 10 megabytes per second.

250-gigabyte cap for speeds between 10 and 20 megabytes per second.

350-gigabyte cap for speeds greater than 20 megabytes per second.

Suddenlink will alert you after the first and second time you exceed your cap. On the third and subsequent overages, the company will increase your monthly allowance by installments of 50 gigabytes and charge you $10 per installment.

Suddenlink will alert you several weeks in advance of the plan rollout in the Crossroads, Abel said.

"This plan is irrelevant to 99-plus percent of our customers, which is why we expect a neutral reaction to continue to be the case as we expand to other areas," Abel said.

For Cordero, the Victoria father of two, he doesn't foresee incurring extra charges. But if he does, his plan is simple.

"If it ever came down to excessive fees," Cordero said, "I'd just cancel my Internet service. If I really need to find or do something online, I can always use my phone's 3G service."

Dig deeper

To read the details of Suddenlink's Allowance Plan, visit



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