While we've known this was coming for a while now, Time Warner Cable has finally started a pilot to meter Internet usage complete with hefty overage fees. New customers in Beaumont, TX will have to put up with meager 40GB per month cap, enough for grandma and folks who do light surfing but entirely inadequate for consumers of online media, gamers, telecommuters and file-sharers. Don't want to pony up $55/mo for the highest tier of service? You could get a cap as low as 5GB per month. Overages will run $1 per GB while many retail hosting providers charge less than $0.50 for the same amount of transfer.
They aren't the only ones either. AT&T is considering caps starting this fall, Qwest already boots high-bandwidth users and even Verizon is keeping its options open for download caps on the speedy new FIOS network though it has no immediate plans to do so. Comcast has also been kicking around the idea of transfer caps (albeit at a generous 250GB per month) and has, for the time being, decided on a protocol-agnostic traffic-shaping policy during peak hours only. After months of being hammered for throttling primarily file-sharers, Comcast must be ready for a respite from angry users.
It seems like the age of all-you-can-eat Internet is rapidly drawing to a close as the financial realities of unrestrained data transfer start to roost with providers unwilling or unable to invest in next-generation infrastructure. Compare this with the emergence of competitive unlimited-use cellular voice plans from Verizon, Sprint and AT&T within weeks of each other and the proliferation of unlimited-use landlines from Vonage, Comcast and Cox. I guess everything old is new again.