Metering Internet Access at Work and Home

You pay for the amount of electricity you use. You pay for the amount of water you use. You pay for the number of phone minutes you need. Why shouldn’t you pay for the amount of high-speed Internet access you consume?

On the face of things, metering broadband access or charging the heaviest users a higher fee seems perfectly logical. So why is everyone raging about it, and why did Time Warner Cable abruptly cancel a recent metering test? Because we’ve been devouring Internet access for 15 years, and now we expect it to be limitless, no matter how many movies we download or games we play.

Read some good background on the issue here.You’ll see TWC had usage plans in mind that that would cap uploads and downloads at 10, 20, 40, and 60 gigabytes. If they went over their caps, customers would pay $1 per GB. The company also proposed a "budget" tier allowing 1 GB of data use per month for just $15, and a "super-tier" allowing up to 100 GB of data use for $75.

The loudest complaints have come from small business owners who don’t want to be bullied into buying "Business Class" when they can stick with what they already use. CNET has more details on the proposals and complaints, and ComputerWorld has lots of angry comments on the subject.

Where’s all this going? It’s hard to say. But it’s also hard to believe we’ll all enjoy unlimited access at work and home forever. There’s simply too much online video and entertainment heading our way, and we can’t expect our Internet providers to give us 100GB of downloads for the same price as 1GB.

–Don Willmott

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