Internet Providers Want to Meter Usage

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MSNBC– If Internet service providers’ current experiments succeed, subscribers may end up paying for high-speed Internet based on how much material they download. Trials with such metered access, rather than the traditional monthly flat fee for unlimited connection time, offer enough bandwidth that they won’t affect many consumers — yet.

But as more people use the Internet to watch TV and stream movies, they could bump up against the metered rates’ caps, paying expensive over-use fees. Watching a movie may then require paying two fees: one for the movie, another to the cable company.

More and more television programming and movies are available online, through sites including Hulu, Netflix Watch Instantly, YouTube and Amazon.com’s Video on Demand.

“If you wanted to watch TV over the Internet in 2000, you had to be willing to take much less content than cable,” said Bobby Tulsiani, a senior analyst with Forrester Research in New York. “Now you get much, much more. Of course, you’re still watching on your PC, not your TV, so there are tradeoffs, but they are tradeoffs many people are willing to make.”

Most consumers probably don’t realize how much bandwidth their Internet usage consumes, because they’ve never had to care. Time Warner, the nation’s third-largest Internet service provider, in its five experimental markets is offering 5 gigabytes of downloaded Internet content for $29.95 per month. That translates to 15 hours of viewing standard-definition video, or 350,000 e-mails, or 170 hours of online gaming, or some combination of those activities, according to the company. A high-definition movie consumes about 7GB of bandwidth.

In addition to compelling consumers to monitor their Internet usage, metering could have broad societal effects, including disenfranchising the poor, retarding network growth and discouraging innovation, some experts say.

Continue reading about ISPs Metering Usage.

© COPYRIGHT MSNBC, 2009

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