The Twilight Problem: Why Metered Broadband Could Suck

twilight-movie-poster-6When it comes metered broadband, most consumers don’t understand how its implementation could affect what it costs them to download content. So I decided to compare how much, depending on which of the nation’s top ISPs’ metered bandwidth plans you choose, it would cost to rent the teen vampire flick “Twilight.”

First I looked at how many gigabytes “Twilight” eats up. If I download an HD version of the movie from the iTunes store, all of the digital bits and bytes that make up the movie add up to 3.8 GB. Other HD movie downloads on iTunes are also in this range.

I then took the information on consumption-based broadband plans and divided the price a customer pays per month by the amount of data they can consume under the plan. This gets me the price per gigabyte. For example, under its cheapest trial tier, Time Warner Cable offers 1 GB for $15 a month, so the price per GB is $15 (each additional GB over the $15 a month plan costs $2). Finally, I multiplied Twilight’s 3.8 gigabytes by the price per GB under each plan.

And what did I find? That in almost all cases, the decision to download the movie will cost more than just the $3.99 rental fee — sometimes much more.

Time Warner Cable: Time Warner’s (S TWC) price per GB for its proposed tiers ranges from 75 cents to $15 (unless you max out the overage fees on the 100 GB per month tier and default into unlimited service for $150). This means the bandwidth for “Twilight” would cost between $2.85 and $20.60. After adding in the $3.99 rental fee, the evening at home costs between $6.84 and $24.59.

AT&T: In most markets, AT&T (S T) offers unlimited service, but for those in trial markets where AT&T meters its service we’ll use AT&T’s U-verse rate of $55 per month divided by the 150 GB cap it’s said it will implement. That nets out to AT&T charging 36 cents per GB, which means the bandwidth for “Twilight” will cost $1.37. Adding in that $3.99 rental fee means my vampire fixation will cost me $5.36 to watch without leaving my couch.

Comcast: Comcast (S SCMCSA) offers a variety of plans but only one cap, which is 250 GB. Price per GB ranges from 17 cents to 58 cents, which translates into bandwidth costs of 65 cents to $2.20 for “Twilight.” So at $3.99 to rent through iTunes, the total price to watch a vampire reluctantly seduce a mortal girl would range from $4.64 to $6.19.

Verizon (s vz): Since Verizon doesn’t meter or cap its service (or plan to), the cost to watch Twilight only reflects the $3.99 rental fee. A user still pays for broadband (as they do even without a metered plan), but without a limit on data downloads, its impossible to calculate a per-GB cost for downloading content.