Another large Internet service provider is pursuing a plan to limit residential customers' bandwidth usage. Joining the likes of Comcast, who announced caps last August (see our coverage), and Time Warner Cable, who are currently conducting tests on pay-per-download, Charter Communications are developing a multi-tiered bandwidth speed-and-cap system. In this system, customers with a service of less than fifteen MBps will have a hundred gigabyte monthly cap, or a service of between fifteen and twenty-five MBps speeds will have a 250 gigabyte cap. Charter's Eric Ketzer confirmed Wednesday that the new $140 sixty-MBps tier will not have bandwidth limitations.

This faster service is called the Ultra60 service - the fastest residential service available from any cable or telecommunications company in the United States - which will be deployed initially in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Approximately forty times faster than DSL, and with multiple stream source capability, Ultra60 service subscribers can claim superior connection to Verizon's FiOS Internet service.

The "No Excessive Use of Bandwidth" clause of the Residential High Speed Internet Acceptable Use Policy has not yet been updated to include the proposed bandwidth caps. However, if a customer is determined to be using "an excessive amount of bandwidth," the retaliatory measures are already enumerated: Charter can adjust, suspend or terminate the account, require an upgrade in service level (incurring any applicable fees), or use packet-reset or packet management technology to slow service.

St. Louis, Missouri-based Charter Communications, Inc. is the third-largest publicly traded cable operator in the US with 5.5 million customers in 27 states. With its own $20 billion debt as impetus, there seems more at stake than the given reason for the policy change. Is it only to protect connection speeds from the one percent of users that are bandwidth hogs? More likely that the new, limit-free connection is an incentive for an otherwise prohibitively expensive service.