The New York Times published an article Sunday entitled Charging by the Byte to Curb Internet Traffic, discussing Time Warner's recent experiment with "Internet metering" and similar initiatives by Comcast and AT&T. These companies intend to implement data transfer caps for home broadband services, and to impose surcharges for excess traffic, to "ensure fair access for all users."
From the article:
One of them, Time Warner Cable, began a trial of "Internet metering" in [Beaumont, TX,] early this month, asking customers to select a monthly plan and pay surcharges when they exceed their bandwidth limit. The idea is that people who use the network more heavily should pay more, the way they do for water, electricity, or, in many cases, cellphone minutes.
In that trial, new customers can buy plans with a 5-gigabyte cap, a 20-gigabyte cap or a 40-gigabyte cap. Prices for those plans range from $30 to $50. Above the cap, customers pay $1 a gigabyte. Plans with higher caps come with faster service.
I feel ill.
As an industry, I really hoped we had grown beyond such immature, underhanded grabs for a dollar. But the proposal seen here is a clear intention to undercut innovation for the sake of squeezing yet more profit out of an already inflated service. It has been known for years where the Internet is heading, and rather than grow their infrastructures to support increasing demands, these corporations saw fit to idle. As Internet service approaches a level of demand where it rivals the telephone, greed prevails and a new pricing structure is being eyed to wring the consumer's wallet even tighter.
Decades ago, when mainframe computers were struggling to meet the needs of their users, did we simply decide to charge more for access? No, we built faster computers. Did we relent when 10 Mbps Ethernet wasn't fast enough? No, we developed technology to increase the speed, tenfold, again and again. This is the essence of technological evolution, and it is the catalyst which drives the advancement of society. A quote from the Times article illustrates how bandwidth caps stand in contrast to such progression:
The Time Warner plan has the potential to bring Internet use full circle, back to the days when pay-as-you-go pricing held back the Web's popularity. In the early days of dial-up access, America Online and other providers offered tiered pricing, in part because audio and video were barely viable online. Consumers feared going over their allotted time and bristled at the idea that access to cyberspace was billed by the hour.
Some other points to ponder:
- "Time Warner would not reveal how many gigabytes an average customer uses, saying only that 95 percent of customers use under 40 gigabytes each in a month." If that's true, why not release the numbers?
- The inverse of the previous quote (if accurate) is that at least one in twenty of Time Warner's customers stand to face a significant increase in what they pay for a service that isn't being improved.
- Time Warner is quoted as charging $50/mo for a measly 40 GB cap. How much are you paying right now for unlimited broadband service, and how much data are you pushing every month?
- Transfer overage for a home connection is quoted as $1/GB. My cost for overage on a high-speed, redundant, managed connection in a controlled data center is $0.30/GB.
Do the math. Consumers lose.