Time Warner Cable (TWC) has announced that it would commence trials on a tiered pricing structure that would charge broadband Internet subscribers according to the amount of bandwidth they use. According to a TWC spokesman, the trials, to be conducted in Beaumont, Texas, later this year, are intended to improve network performance by changing the cost for a fraction of the cable firm’s subscribers to download large amounts of data. Like nearly all of its competitors, TWC currently charges its broadband customers according to the speed of their Internet connection but does not limit the amount of bandwidth used by subscribers. As a result, TWC noted that approximately 5% of its customers (i.e., subscribers who download large video or music files on a regular basis) are using 50% of the company’s network capacity. To free up network space and to encourage more efficient network use among its customers, TWC confirmed that it would offer four service tiers on an experimental basis that would tie cost to bandwidth usage and that would also require the installation of bandwidth meters on new high-speed accounts. (Current TWC broadband customers would not be impacted by the plan.) New subscribers would be allotted a certain number of gigabytes that correspond to their usage plan and would also be given access to a web page through which they can monitor their bandwidth consumption. Subscribers would be charged on a per gigabyte basis for any bandwidth used in excess of their service plan. Although details on pricing were not disclosed, TWC said it would review the results of the test before deciding to expand metered pricing to other markets. While Google, YouTube and other web sites with high capacity requirements could experience a decline in usage under a metered pricing model, a representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation defended TWC’s approach, observing: “the availability of metered access alongside all-you-can-eat plans, combined with accurate advertising by ISPs, is one alternative that might solve congestion issues raised by the downloading habits of a small number of users.”