BendBroadband’s residential Internet customers will soon be able to download a song or pictures from mom in half the time they do now when the company boosts its Internet speeds July 1. The company also will begin capping how much material customers can download each month, and exceeding those caps will result in additional charges.
The cable company will double download speeds for existing customers and offer a service level that includes download speeds of up to 16 megabytes per second (Mbps). According to Frank Miller, the company’s chief technology officer, a three-minute song would download in 2 to 3 seconds at 16 Mbps.
Faster download speeds will mean everything from better Internet phone service to shorter load times for videos, Miller said.
“Our goal is to make the little slider bar or the swirling browser circle go away,” said Miller, referring to items commonly used by Internet-based programs that show the progress of a download.
Matt Abrams, a local technology professional with California-based software giant Oracle who daily sends large files through his BendBroadband account, was excited to hear faster download speeds are coming, but he also worried about how it might affect Internet traffic.
“It’s like the freeways,” explained Abrams. “They created six-lane freeways and said we’ll never have traffic jams. Guess what. Same concept here … so it’s good news overall, but I have some questions.”
BendBroadband currently offers two tiers of Internet service, Classic and Deluxe, with download speeds of 4 and 6 Mbps, respectively. Under the reorganization plan, those customers will be automatically transferred to new tiers, named Bronze and Silver, with download speeds of 8 and 12 Mbps.
The monthly price for the new Internet service tiers will remain the same, $36.95 and $44.95, respectively. Those rates increase by $10 for people who do not subscribe to any other BendBroadband service, according to the company’s Web site.
A new third tier, Gold, will offer download speeds of up to 16 Mbps for $54.95 per month.
Upload speeds will remain the same, at 1 Mbps for Bronze tier customers and 1.5 Mbps for Silver- and Gold-tier customers. Uploads will count against the cap.
The company also will offer a virus protection service for $2.95 per month for Bronze tier customers. Silver- and Gold-tier customers will receive the service as part of their package.
BendBroad-band said it expects to increase speeds for its business customers as well and plans to release details in coming weeks, said Miller.
A key change for the company is the move toward a consumption-based pay model for its Internet service. Noting that 9 percent of its customers use 65 percent of its bandwidth, Miller said the move allows the company to keep costs low for the majority of its customers.
“It’s not letting a small bunch of users drive prices up,” he said.
Under the plan, Bronze tier users will be allotted a 10-gigabyte allowance of downloadable material per month. If they exceed that amount, they will be charged $1.50 for each additional gigabyte.
How much is 10 gigabytes?
A lot, according to BendBroad-band, equaling roughly 333,333 visits to a Web page, viewing 714,286 e-mails or downloading 2,500 three-minute songs.
All Internet activity, though, will be combined to measure against the monthly cap.
Silver users will have a 30- gigabyte cap, and Gold users will have a 50-gigabyte cap. Both tiers also include a charge of $1.50 for each additional gigabyte that exceeds the cap.
BendBroadband believes that 92 percent of its Internet customers, the majority of whom only browse Web sites or read e-mails, will not surpass their download caps. It believes 6 percent will have to change tiers to accommodate their Internet activities, and that 2 percent will download more than 50 gigabytes of material per month.
“Our bandwidth allowances are set so that the typical Internet customer will see no difference in their monthly charge,” Miller said. “This really comes down to creating fairness. Bandwidth comes at a high cost, and customers using (a small amount per month) are, in effect, subsidizing a few users using (more).”
According to the company’s estimates, a customer would have to download roughly 33 movies or 12,500 songs per month to exceed the 50-gigabyte cap.
To help customers track their activity, the company will provide a small software program to track usage. Customers will be able to switch tiers based on their activity but will not be able to bank or rollover any unused Internet usage, Miller said.
Miller added that BendBroad-band has engineered its Internet system for more speed and usage.
In addition to faster Internet speeds, the company said it plans to roll out a Web portal to accommodate its new services. A Web page that can be customized for users, the portal will include news, sports, weather and links to e-mail accounts and other company products. For instance, Mil-ler hopes to integrate the portal with customers who use digital video recorders, enabling them to manage their DVRs online.
The company has been planning the upgrade for some time. In the fall, it notified customers with older cable modems that they would need to upgrade them in order to access the faster Internet services. Current customers do not need new equipment to handle the planned upgrade.
The company plans to send a letter to its customers next week to prepare them for the changes and make the tracking software available on its Web site so customers can familiarize themselves with it and their Internet activity before the July 1 launch, Miller said.
Doug Thompson, a Bend man who runs his own public relations firm and uses a BendBroadband Internet account to send correspondence and documents for work, said any speed changes “probably wouldn’t matter to me one way or another.” He believes, though, that BendBroadband customers will welcome the enhancements.