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Web Usage-Based Billing On Its Way 397

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-feeding-that-meter dept.
tripleevenfall writes with this excerpt from SFGate: "The days of watching movies on the cheap via the Web may soon be over. Time Warner Cable and U.S. pay-TV companies are on the verge of instituting new fees on Web-access customers who use the most data. ... U.S. providers have weighed usage-based plans for years as a way to squeeze more profit from Web access, and to counter slowing growth and rising program costs in the TV business. While customer complaints hampered earlier attempts, pay-TV companies are testing usage caps and price structures that point to the advent of permanent fees. ... Cable's best option is to find ways to profit from the online shift, said [analyst Craig Moffett]. If the companies were to lose all of their video customers, the revenue decline would be more than offset by lower programming fees and set-top box spending. 'In the end, it will be the best thing that ever happened to the cable industry,' Moffett said."
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Web Usage-Based Billing On Its Way

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  • by mykos (1627575) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:51AM (#38236426)
    We can make your entire industry irrelevant with a single referendum. Tread lightly, telecoms.
    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:55AM (#38236456)
      If you can beat the army of lobbyists, and then the army of lawyers behind them, and then the army of pressure groups who will demand that the network be censored because the government should not spend tax money to distribute smut.
      • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:06AM (#38236536) Homepage Journal

        If you can beat the army of lobbyists, and then the army of lawyers behind them, and then the army of pressure groups who will demand that the network be censored because the government should not spend tax money to distribute smut.

        People will just put up with it. I mean, who really complained about the absurdly expensive data plans and two year contracts to have smart phones? Anyone raise a stink over cable/satellite fees? How's that A La Cart bill coming along?

        • by stanlyb (1839382) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:15AM (#38236620)
          Me, They lost ME. I already stopped watching TV, and now do you think that i would go back the stupid TV shows? Noooo, just forget it. At the end they will loose both revenues, from the web and from the TiVo boxes. Which is actually good, they will go broke, and then we will have new players.
          • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:54AM (#38237132)

            It's not just you. [dailymail.co.uk]

            Look at your $60-120 cable bill and tell me there isn't something else that would make you happy with that money. At the high end, that's a family mobile plan with data for a family of four. [t-mobile.com]

          • by AdamJS (2466928)

            And you are irrelevant.
            And quite frankly, eventually they will cripple or legislate away any alternatives you have.

        • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:24AM (#38236686) Homepage

          Anyone raise a stink over cable/satellite fees?

          I'm not sure whether they're raising a stink, but they are slowly but surely stopping spending money on cable. That's why the cable companies are going after people who stream their shows instead.

          I know I quit watching cable about 3 years ago and have never looked back. In fact, after cancelling cable, I found that in addition to having some not-insignificant extra cash, I also had a lot more time to read or do charity work or pursue my hobbies.

          • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:13AM (#38237466)

            Time Warner didn't even lay cable on my side of the street. I've had my house for 3 years, and it was the last one built on this side, so they've been sitting on it for a while. I can't get cable TV, but they keep sending me advertisements to get cable internet.

            I like to call them up, very exicted to get a lackage deal, only to be told they would send someone out to see if they can do it. I say, why don't you stop mailing me until you can?

            Everyone here has dish already, so they may never even try. Sure they are watching their investments, but 15 years ago they would have had this cabled the day my foundation was finished. One of the guys I worked with had a physical cable across his yard, that his neighbor kept cutting while mowing. They wanted to get him on cable before he got something else, but didn't bury the line - that's how badly they wanted customers. Kept replacing the cable every 6 months, 4 times at least.

          • by gweilo8888 (921799) on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:54AM (#38238114)
            Likewise, you're not alone. Other than one Formula One race weekend every couple of weeks for half the year, I no longer watch TV at all, and I stay on promotional rates for the lowest tier that will give me the Speed channel to watch F1. If a la carte existed, I'd probably choose a couple of dozen channels I cared about, but I'm not going to buy all the junk I don't want in a bunch of different tiers to get them. If the cable industry wasn't so greedy, they'd get more of my money than they do now.

            I don't own a smartphone, because I refuse to be ripped off on the insane data rates charged in this country, nor do I have a contract because I am disgusted by the fact I'm forced to buy from a list of phones selected by (and with the software feature set crippled by) the provider, rather than choosing my own at retail or from the manufacturer. Instead I stick with a pay-as-you-go dumbphone. If the telecoms industry wasn't so greedy, they'd get more of my money than they do now.

            I likewise have stopped consuming music altogether, with the exception of advertiser-supported, free radio and advertiser-supported, free Spotify. I don't torrent music, but I also no longer buy it either on CD or as downloads, because I object to the removal of my fair-use rights, and the unnecessary DRM schemes on both CDs and downloadable music that put artificial limitations on what devices I can use them with. It's been a decade or more since I last paid a cent to anybody other than private artists selling their own music. If the music industry wasn't so greedy, they'd get more of my money than they do now.

            ...and most recently, I'm dialing back my movie consumption, due to the huge rate hikes the movie industry has forced on Netflix. My Netflix bill is the lowest it's been in years, because I dropped Watch Instantly altogether once I was forced to pay essentially double my bill just a year earlier. Yet another industry is starting to get so greedy that it actually ends up losing money from me.

            But I digress. My point is, you're not alone, and some consumers do respond by spending less when big business gets greedy. The question is, will that ever be a significant-enough section of the populace to cause a rethink.
            • by ZipK (1051658) on Friday December 02, 2011 @01:09PM (#38239472)

              ...I also no longer buy it either on CD or as downloads, because I object to the removal of my fair-use rights, and the unnecessary DRM schemes on both CDs and downloadable music that put artificial limitations on what devices I can use them with. It's been a decade or more since I last paid a cent to anybody other than private artists selling their own music.

              Other than the Sony BMG's rootkit [wikipedia.org], there hasn't been widespread DRM employed on CDs. LIkewise, Amazon and other on-line e-tailers have been vending DRM-less MP3s for years now.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:42AM (#38236914)

          Me. I gave up Cable TV forever ago. And I stoutly refuse to get a smart phone with the ridiculous data costs, especially with the recent data caps. I don't care about internet on my phone that much. Oh, don't get me wrong, I think is a bunch of neat features that smartphones have, but not nearly worth the cost. I think I'd rather just give up my cell phone entirely rather than be forced into a smartphone.

      • by AbbyNormal (216235) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:11AM (#38236588) Homepage

        Start locally then in your township. Or start a consortium in the neighborhood / purchase some dedicated circuits. This "shifting profit" model is ridiculous as they are already making fistloads of cash on my monthly service to begin with. If they offered more value then that would be fine, but what value would consumers have going to this model?

      • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:17AM (#38236634)

        I can attest to this. Google recently offered the small town I work in a deal that would have paid for the construction of an entire wireless infrastructure, and 3 years of support to get the whole town Wi-Fi coverage. They only had to take up support costs after 3 years.

        The town declined because Google refused to filter the connection. They were so afraid of somebody might see a tit that they turned down FREE town-wide wifi coverage.

        I hate living in the Bible-belt . . . .

      • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:30AM (#38236756)

        ...censored because the government should not spend tax money to distribute smut.

        Tax money would not be used, subscribers still pay to use the connection. If someone claims any government involvement allows censorship, then someone else can claim it also prevents distribution of religious programming to maintain separation of church and state. Hopefully everyone will realize the path to getting what they want is not interfering with others getting what they want.

    • by delinear (991444) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:58AM (#38236474)
      That, or people will find alternative forms of entertainment. It sounds like a greedy CEO's dream to charge per usage when some users are consuming lots, but the reason people watch so much is at least partly because it becomes more economical the more you watch (versus going to the movies, for instance). Mess around with that balance and you're as likely to find people counting the pennies and turning off the TV (or web based medium of choice) more often as you are to find people willing to put up and shut up.
      • by CmdrPony (2505686)
        Sadly, I don't think they will. That's always a good dream, but casual people will be okay with all this if it means they can continue watching their favorite TV shows, movies and listen to music. You really think they're going to drop watching their TV shows just because some heavy downloaders get billed more?
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      We can make your entire industry irrelevant with a single referendum. Tread lightly, telecoms.

      Sorry, but if you mean the House, Senate and President signing anything blocking them from doing it you can guess again.

    • by similar_name (1164087) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:27AM (#38236716)
      It is really bad when they are not even making the argument that bandwidth is costing too much. They are just making the argument that because they are losing money in department A they are going to raise prices in department B. Perhaps we just shouldn't let Internet Content Providers be Internet Service Providers.
    • by spinkham (56603)

      This is why Time Warner pushed a bill through NC to put lots of roadblocks up for municipal broadband here.

      http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/cities-consumers-lose-municipal-broadband-fight/Content?oid=2440390 [indyweek.com]

      The local LUG was quite vocal in fighting this, but we don't have the resources of Time Warner.

      Fuck you very much Time Warner.

  • by unity100 (970058)
    Charge people for 2160p 'high-high-definition' content streaming. there isnt 2160p yet you say ? dont worry. once this shit gets going .....
    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Why not just jump to 4K? Youtube already has 4k content (although a very small amount, and compressed to ridiculous levels).

      • 4K is 2160p. It is 4096×2160. They decided to use the horizontal number instead of the vertical this time because it is bigger.
  • Needs to stop (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:53AM (#38236442)

    This has been on the horizon for some time here in Canada. We came damn close recently (but massive public outrage managed to stop it), but they are talking about it yet again.

    I wish we could just skip through this long painful phase where the established dinosaurs hold back natural progress for as long as possible. We all know this is the future.. and it annoys me that I may not actually see in my lifetime things we could be doing from a technological standpoint right now because some huge established companies refuse to adapt or get out of the way and have the piles of money and armies of lawyers/lobbyists to keep it up for decades.

    Honestly, while I don’t have much faith in governments doing things properly nor illusions that it wouldn’t be influenced.. I think at this point I’d love to see Internet access become a government run utility.

    • Re:Needs to stop (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:56AM (#38236460)
      If they go to usage based billing and I need to make a financial choice between internet and cable, the decision for me is an easy one. I would guess that it's just as easy for a very large percentage of people. They would be wise to keep that in mind.
      • Re:Needs to stop (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bsane (148894) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:00AM (#38236486)

        Thats the point though- this would theoretically be perpetrated by the cable providers, and they attempt to recoup all of their lost tv revenue via increased internet costs.

        Comcast already did it without usage based billing- I have internet only and they jacked it up to $70/month from $40, if I bought a internet + tv package it'd be $75.

        • by ifrag (984323)
          Yep, it's totally ridiculous. Just this week I upgraded my Comcast internet and decided to drop TV entirely. In my area on the extreme 50 service, the difference between having and not having basic TV was only $2 total on the bill. I still decided to drop it anyway.
        • Re:Needs to stop (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Barbarian (9467) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:22AM (#38236674)

          Thats the point though- this would theoretically be perpetrated by the cable providers, and they attempt to recoup all of their lost tv revenue via increased internet costs.

          Comcast already did it without usage based billing- I have internet only and they jacked it up to $70/month from $40, if I bought a internet + tv package it'd be $75.

          Canadian cable provider Shaw posted their new rate plans for internet only (were to start in November).. same thing, there was basically no difference between internet only and internet+cable in cost. I said "see ya!" and switched to a dsl provider at a substantial discount to the new internet rates.

          You have to go deep into the Shaw cable website to find the real internet package pricing -- on their main page they proudly announced "29.95" for "Broadband 50". Going into the details:

          INTRODUCTORY OFFER

          For 6 Months
          $29.95/mo
          Bundled Price
          $59.00/mo
          Standalone Price
          $74.90/mo

          There are some older packages available, not well advertised, and probably to be deleted in the future. Still, basic internet (when you find it on their site) is $42.50 a month with TV, and $52.50 a month without. That's at least $10 more than basic DSL service around here.

          • Re:Needs to stop (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Maow (620678) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:37AM (#38236836) Journal

            Canadian cable provider Shaw posted their new rate plans for internet only (were to start in November).. same thing, there was basically no difference between internet only and internet+cable in cost. I said "see ya!" and switched to a dsl provider at a substantial discount to the new internet rates.

            I switched too, but chose TekSavvy for cable internet, as opposed to DSL: that cuts Bell/Telus out too.

            Of course, Shaw still makes money via TekSavvy, but I pay $30 / month and am very happy with it.

            (Also dropped Rogers for Wind, CIBC for Vancity, and it feels great: better service, equal or better prices (thanks Wind), and... I'm not supporting the parasites with my business!)

            YMMV...

      • Re:Needs to stop (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot&uberm00,net> on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:01AM (#38236500) Homepage Journal

        What makes you think that they'll stop with cable? Remember, most cable providers are ISPs as well.

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        I would guess that it's just as easy for a very large percentage of people.

        Personally I cut the cable a long time ago.. but I don't watch sport. From talking to a few friends who do watch sports, this seems to be the big reason you still need cable.

        But even for regular TV viewing, the big problem (at least here in Canada) was the rates and caps they were planning would have essentially limit edyou to a few shows a month... which I think is the plan. Make watching movies and TV shows over the internet so ludicrously expensive that it doesn't make sense. There are definitely a few p

        • Sopcast gives you all the sports you need.

          Not always in English- but if you don't mind muting the Chinese voices- it's great.

          More oft than not though you can find a stream in English.

      • by Taibhsear (1286214) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:06AM (#38236548)

        If they go to usage based billing and I need to make a financial choice between internet and cable, the decision for me is an easy one.

        Steal your neighbor's wifi?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wifi.

      • If they go to usage based billing and I need to make a financial choice between internet and cable, the decision for me is an easy one. I would guess that it's just as easy for a very large percentage of people.

        It'd be just as easy for my aunt's husband: he'd go back to dial-up and keep his NFL and NHL games.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      i think the Dutch model would be far more attractive:
      force the network operators to allow 3de party providers on their network at reasonable fee's

      instant competition. and the ones with data-limits didn't last long in the Dutch market.
      all the benefits of a free-market system, without the risk of monopolies that are ruining the US ISP market.

      • Re:Needs to stop (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anrego (830717) * on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:07AM (#38236550)

        That's actually very close to what we have here.

        In fact the crux of the issue was that the main provider wanted to increase those "reasonable fee's" to the point where 3rd party providers would pretty much have to do caps/usage based billing to stay out of the red. The CRTC, which is supposed to prevent that kind of thing, said "sounds good". It came really damn close to happening, but got effectively vetoed at the last stages by our government due to massive public outcry.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I prefer Swedish models...

      • by compro01 (777531)

        The US had that until 2005.

        The 1996 telecommunications act required such loop leasing. Then Brand X tried to get the cable companies to lease their stuff. Cable companies said no, court ensured, went up to the supreme court, and they said there was no requirement for the cable companies to do that.

        Then a couple months later, the FCC removed that requirement from the telephone companies in the interest of "fairness", effectively obliterating any real competition.

    • Re:Needs to stop (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stanlyb (1839382) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:22AM (#38236676)
      Actually, you are making one very honest, but very big mistake. You think that the next generation are just like you, they know what TV is, they like it, they watch it. Which is, simply said, not true. They are different, they are interested in different kind of entertainment, in different model of media, i could say. So, with other words, in your lifetime, say the next 10 years, there will be a great shift and changes of what media is, how to distribute it, how to pay it, and that model is simply not compatible with the current one.
      • Re:Needs to stop (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anrego (830717) * on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:14AM (#38237478)

        So, with other words, in your lifetime, say the next 10 years, there will be a great shift and changes of what media is, how to distribute it, how to pay it, and that model is simply not compatible with the current one.

        And the established companies are going to do everything in their power to prevent all of that... and I think they are more able than people give them credit for. A big part of that will be driven by the internet.. which they control. Maybe things arn't as bleak as I think, but I don't think they are as rosy as you do ;p

        And all that said, with the growing popularity of "average guy" generated content and the massive lowering of the bar to get content out there.. people still want their multi-million dollar Hollywood flicks and TV shows.

    • by mattie_p (2512046)
      Companies are out to make money by selling a product, whether a service or a tangible item. These products cost the company money to produce and/or maintain. With customers increasing their demand for bandwidth, ISPs and cable providers have to increase their network to meet that demand, which costs a LOT of money. [gigaom.com] (Gigabit per second internet to about 100,000 homes would cost an estimated half a billion dollars). This money does not grow on trees. Governments cannot afford to make that investment, at
    • like in nature a well established organism in a biological niche very rarely gets removed from it except by a outside force. the dinosaurs with their meteor. the large land mammals during the ice age was due to the warming climate. just letting a smaller competitor into the market won't undo them, they will just attrition them out. what needs to happen is ma bell like break up. or declare all the internet infrastructure common property like the roads.

  • Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:01AM (#38236498)

    I could get behind this if it's done reasonably. Figure out what the top 10% of users use, draw a line there and say it's an extra $5 each month you surpass it. Likewise, figure out what the bottom 20% use, draw a line there and knock off $10 for each month they don't surpass it.

    Of course, asking these guys to be reasonable is like asking Apple fanboys to use Windows...

    • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Taibhsear (1286214) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:08AM (#38236554)

      draw a line there and knock off $10

      Hahaha, that's a good one. (wipes single tear from eye)

    • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:18AM (#38236644) Journal

      The problem is it creates the wrong incentives. Data is not like water or gas where you can save it by not using it. The fixed costs are the same no matter how much bandwith we use, and any bandwidth we don't use is lost forever. This means we should encourage people to use more bandwidth, and if we don't have enough, we should build more infrastructure. Usage based billing encourages us to waste network capacity, and discourages ISPs from building out infrastructure. Why spend money to upgrade the network when you can make money by charging the heavy users instead?

      • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by omnichad (1198475) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:29AM (#38236744) Homepage

        Agreed. This is just going to have phone companies aggressively rolling out fiber. They've already lost their landline customers for good. Cable's not convinced people aren't going back to TV. In the meantime, the telephone companies can steal them all back. Personally, I'm in a decent sized city that doesn't have DSL at my address. Why? I have no idea. Here's hoping for fiber or VDSL in the next couple years.

      • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tbannist (230135) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:33AM (#38236792)

        I think it should be accepted as a fundamental issue that you should either be charged for speed or usage but not both. It's double-dipping to force people to pay for speed and then charge them for volume as well. Without volume, speed is meaningless. Without speed, volume is meaningless.

        Paying for one should automatically include the other and as Hatta wrote, it's actually better if we pay for speed rather than volume.

      • Re:Maybe... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sloppy (14984) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:50AM (#38237034) Homepage Journal

        The fixed costs are the same no matter how much bandwith we use, and any bandwidth we don't use is lost forever.

        Are you really sure about that? I got the impression that with the cable TV companies, their network's physical last mile is something like a shared ethernet (think back when you use ethernet hubs instead of switches, or even further back when you had 10base2 if you're old enough to have gone through that), in that when you're talking/listening, someone else has to wait their turn.

        Of course, it sounds like your argument is to try to make them either change that, or at least upgrade its capacity. By charging per capita instead of in proportion to use, the light users who subsidize the heavy users will demand the sum of everyone's bills go down (so that their own bill goes down), thus being the incentive to upgrade the network.

        I wonder if we could use this same strategy to advance Everything. Imagine if gasoline/petrol companies were to charge car drivers a fixed monthly fee for fuel, instead of per gallon. That would give us incentive to use our cars more, and give them incentive to obtain more fuel more cheaply. And since oil prospecting and drilling is much like residential cable/fiber laying in that it's nearly free and the only barrier to doing it is having the desire to do so, the strategy should work equally well.

      • Re:Maybe... (Score:4, Informative)

        by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Friday December 02, 2011 @01:58PM (#38240244) Homepage

        The problem is it creates the wrong incentives. Data is not like water or gas where you can save it by not using it. The fixed costs are the same no matter how much bandwith we use, and any bandwidth we don't use is lost forever.

        That's superficially true, but it fails when you look at the whole system. For one thing, supplying water or gas is not that dissimilar to supplying data. In either case, you have both a peak delivery rate determined by your distribution infrastructure, and an actual amount used. Parts of either kind of infrastructure may be shared between multiple users. A higher peak delivery rate costs more not only for the increased amount used but also for the more expensive infrastructure necessary to deliver it.

        In the ISP's case they're paying for both the infrastructure ("last mile") and the upstream connection to their Internet provider(s). The latter part is the "actual amount used". These sorts of connections are generally one-way (mostly downloads), so the ISP is paying for transit based on the amount used / peak capacity required, rather than peering. If the ISP's overall bandwidth requirements drop, they can shut down some extra outside connections or renegotiate their peak transit requirements. They can't "conserve" bandwidth, saving it for later use, but they can avoid purchasing more transit than they actually need, and save the money instead. It works out the same in the end.

        The actual "last mile" aspect of the infrastructure is, of course, a fixed cost, and might as well be utilized to its full capacity. However, large parts of the ISP's local infrastructure are still shared resources (upstream of the DSLAM or its cable equivalent), and the same arguments apply for this shared portion as for the ISP's upstream connections.

        To summarize, there are basically three different kinds of costs associated with an Internet connection from an ISP. First, you have the ISP's transit costs, which scale roughly linearly with actual use. This is the part most compatible with usage-based billing. Second, you have the ISP's shared infrastructure, which scales with the peak bandwidth requirements for your neighborhood, plus a certain amount of fixed cost. Since the ISP probably doesn't want to vary their prices based on your location, they'll most likely be forced to rely on prioritization. The shared infrastructure should be sufficient to cover the median use for each end-user connection speed during peak hours, but above-average users may find themselves throttled in proportion to their rated speed to ensure the available bandwidth is allocated fairly.

        Finally, you have the unshared connection to each end user, which is a combination of fixed costs and an additional amount depending on required peak connection speed. The final price should thus include a fixed component, a component proportional to the peak bandwidth for the local infrastructure, and a component proportional to the actual amount of data transferred. The last component may vary based on peak/off-peak hours to ensure that the fixed costs (infrastructure) are utilized efficiently.

    • with their internet as they have been with their phones....

      Look at what the wireless companies are doing with their phones and the fact that people pay for this abuse. $30 data plans... required for smart phones.

      So you imagine the crap they will pull on internet if they get their way. I have no problem with usage based pricing provided that the line is separated from the provider. As in, treat it like my gas company. There is one company which gets paid a flat rate to maintain all gas lines in the state. Fr

    • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday December 02, 2011 @12:43PM (#38239034)

      Figure out what the top 10% of users use, draw a line there and say it's an extra $5 each month you surpass it.

      Except, it turns out that the "problem" is not bandwidth hogs. [boingboing.net]

  • by WD (96061)

    So FTP, Bittorrent, RTSP, are not covered?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And everyone will soon follow.... Everything will eventually be tiered pricing.

    The amount of miles you drive determine the price you pay for gas at the pump.

    The amount of food you eat determines the amount you pay.

    Grant it, this is currently being applied to non-essential services, such as data plans and someday broadband internet and cable TV, but with dwindling natural resources, this is likely to happen to where you pay less if you consume less...

    • by chill (34294)

      Uh, we already do this?

      If I drive more miles, I pay for more gas. Ditto with food. I don't know of one grocery store with an "all you can eat" plan. If I want more food, I pay for more food.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      OK - pay JUST by usage. I'm OK with 10 cents/GB. Though I'd hope the price would come down from there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:05AM (#38236528)

    We are trying to kill off Netflix because they had the foresight to get rights to stream our tv shows before we thought it was a good idea. Now we are losing millions of people to hulu and netflix and others so we are gonna charge you for using thier service and make you use our service since you won't choose us.

    Sincerely,
    The Cable Dinosaurs

  • How much is a byte of data worth? Will the price of video per byte be the same as the price per byte for music? For text? For other forms of data or media? Who sets the price? I'm sure there are lots more questions that nobody in the industry is interested in answering right now because . . . money!
  • The easiest way to institute metered bandwidth is to reward users who simply aren't interested in doing a lot of bandwidth-intensive tasks with a lower bill. If I could get my grandmother a $10/month basic plan with 2GB of bandwidth and basic customer service support, with say a $2/10GB add-on fee, it'd be a steal. She'd almost never use the 2GB of bandwidth in the first place, so most of that $10 would end up subsidizing other users--but without jacking her.

    This just goes to show that the sociopathically g

  • Oh, that's okay then. I'll just go right back to torrenting the shows I want to watch, then, and you'll lose the few pennies of advertising dollars you were getting from me. Bye!

  • good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:23AM (#38236682)
    I've always maintained they should align their price structure with actual costs. Maybe this won't get us all the way there, but it may end up being closer than their structure is now. Bundle their fixed costs into a fixed fee then recoup the rest in per-usage fees. To differentiate different plans based on max bandwidth, either up the fixed fee or up the per-usage rate for plans w/ higher bandwidth. Since they're now charging per usage, the telecoms have very little (legitimate) incentive to do any sort of throttling, enforcing of limits or traffic shaping.
    • by buddyglass (925859) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:29AM (#38236740)
      Oh, and while you're at it, have the FCC/FTC break up the companies that are both content providers and bandwidth providers, e.g. Time Warner, Cox, etc. That takes care of the conflict of interest. Time Warner ISP becomes concerned only with providing a great network experience, without any care as to what you use it for. "Time Warner Content" (along with every other cable content provider) essentially becomes a Netflix/Hulu competitor.
  • by DragonHawk (21256) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:25AM (#38236692) Homepage Journal

    I never quite understood the moral panic that seems to appear when this comes up. Asking people to pay for what they use doesn't seem like *that* radical a concept to me.

    * If you run more appliances, your electric bill goes up
    * If you drive a longer distance, you need to buy more gas
    * If you make a lot of cell phone calls, your bill goes up
    * If you eat more, you pay more for the groceries

    Why is Internet use seen differently?

    And before someone says, "I'm paying for X megabits/second, I should get that!", please understand that your feed connects you to the next upstream concentration point (switch, router, whatever). Beyond that, it's all shared bandwidth, and oversubscribed. That's one of the chief benefits of a packet-switched network -- you don't need to dedicate a circuit to each subscriber. Asking for dedicated connectivity the whole way[1] is asking for a return to the days of leased lines, where you paid thousands of dollars a month for 1.54 Mbit/sec.

    [1] And, of course, the Internet doesn't have a "whole way".

    • by ledow (319597)

      Same with protests over fuel. In the UK, the government try to raise road taxes, introduce tolls, car-share lanes, congestion charging, parking fees etc. when the only thing that matters is pence per litre. Raise that, and blanket the roads in "no parking", "no gas-guzzlers" signs that are ENFORCED and the hardest-users are hit worse (including those who use higher grades of fuel, drive more, have huge cars, make unnecessary journeys etc.)

      I'd much rather pay PAYG extra fuel and not have to keep digging ou

    • by chill (34294) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:43AM (#38236932) Journal

      And before someone says, "I'm paying for X megabits/second, I should get that!", please understand that your feed connects you to the next upstream concentration point (switch, router, whatever). Beyond that, it's all shared bandwidth, and oversubscribed. That's one of the chief benefits of a packet-switched network -- you don't need to dedicate a circuit to each subscriber. Asking for dedicated connectivity the whole way[1] is asking for a return to the days of leased lines, where you paid thousands of dollars a month for 1.54 Mbit/sec.

      Then stop telling me that is what you're providing. If somewhere upstream can't handle the rate and limits it, that is one thing. But I don't give a rat's ass about your oversubscription issues. If Comcast tells me "20 Mbps", then under no circumstances but the rarest should COMCAST ever throttle me. The upstream provider can rate limit as they need to.

      Honestly, I don't mind paying for what I use. What I mind is getting LIED TO about it under the guise of "advertising".

    • by dragonhunter21 (1815102) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:54AM (#38237118) Journal

      The big problem I have is that the internet is not a consumable resource. Yes, if I drive a lot, or eat a lot, or use a lot of electricity, my gas, food, and electrical bills will go up- but that's because those are resources that can be consumed. The internet (and phone access, by the way) isn't consumed when I access it. It's just There.

    • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:59AM (#38237224)
      It's not so much a moral panic, but usage-based billing is seen as bad because:

      1. It's not inline with the operating costs. For gas or electricity, the more you use the more of the resource is used up. Hence, it just makes sense to pay for usage. With bandwidth, it's not exactly the same. There is a large base cost to having a given infrastructure; the additional cost to actually use the infrastructure is comparatively small (routers and switches transferring packets do consume a bit more electricity than routers and switches idling... but this is small compared to the base cost of installing and maintaining the routers and switches at all). In general, people find it unfair for consumer costs to be highly unrelated to actual production costs (it feels arbitrary and like price gouging).

      2. Related to #1, it's just generally inefficient not to use data-transmission infrastructure at near 100% capacity. Once the infrastructure is in place, it's cheap to just use it. Thus, it's overall more efficient (in terms of productivity per amount of resource used) to encourage people to use the Internet to capacity. Usage-based billing has the opposite incentive: it encourages people to ration what is in not a traditional resource. (Unused bandwidth is wasted, not banked for a rainy day.)

      3. In an overall technological/economic trend sense, usage-based billing has the effect of keeping society locked into a fixed data-transmission infrastructure. The incentive to expand and improve the network, add bandwidth and capacity, is eliminated. Thus progress in telecommunications is stalled. Most people would agree that the deployment of telephones and the rapid expansion of the Internet have been overall beneficial to our economy and technological progress. Thus, it seems like continuing to expand our communications infrastructure would be a good thing. Usage-based billing maintains the status quo instead of encouraging expansion of our networks.

      4. As others have pointed out, to the consumer, data bandwidth is more like cable TV or landline telephones: both of which have traditionally been a "pay per month; unlimited usage" model (with many exceptions, of course: long-distance calling, pay-per-view, premium content, ...). So there is at least precedent for similar consumer services being metered on an "access time-period" basis and not a usage basis.

      Why is Internet use seen differently?

      I think the short answer is: "Because it's different." Bandwidth is not a tangible resource like gas or food. Treating it as one is not efficient.

    • by deathguppie (768263) on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:03AM (#38237302)

      I was around in the eighties when having a link from one computer to another meant that you had to pay usage fees. By the minute actually. Making large transfers of data were simply cost prohibitive, your average youtube video would have cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars at those old rates.

      When people began to talk about having a world wide internet connection they got absolutely no response from the telcoms on the issue simply because, the idea of changing their service fees from a "by the minute" to a flat rate was unreasonable. They simply refused. Then after it had been shown that data could be sent in different (beyond hearing) frequencies, without affecting their normal voice business, they still balked. Opting instead to offer their lines at the same rate for whatever usage.

      In the end it literally took an act of congress to force the telcoms to lease their lines out for internet use. Not by the megabyte or by the minute.. but the whole lines. Believe me there was more than just a little resistance. Since then the telcoms have been fighting to regain the ground they lost when the internet was created, and to be able to charge you ten or a hundred times more for the same service they provide now.

      In fact you are right.. there are no established laws on the books that protect the "internet" as we know it.. from being chopped up and charged for by the website. But the it wouldn't be the "internet" , and the telcoms would have no incentive at all to upgrade the available infrastructure when they could simply charge you more and more for the ever expanding pieces that they can chop off.

    • by dargaud (518470)
      I wanted to rate you 'overrated' but here goes: data is not water or petroleum. It costs the same whether you use it or not, it's a fixed cost that depends only on the infrastructure.
    • In the case of electricity, gas, or groceries, your increased usage leads to a decrease in the supply of resources available. You've consumed something, so you should pay for it according to the amount you've consumed. That only makes sense, since ownership of that resource has essentially been transferred to you and the manufacturer or seller cannot recover it from you.

      In contrast, time is the resource I consume when I make use of an ISP's infrastructure to access the Internet (if you disagree, consider th

    • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday December 02, 2011 @12:33PM (#38238852)

      It's the DEGREE of fees. It would be like going to a restraunt and finding that the first steak is $10 but if you want more food the "overrage" steak is $50. That is, if you left the restraunt and came back you could eat 2 steaks for $20, or if you sat down and ate 2 at once it would cost you $70.

      That's how these overrage fees work. Since there's generally 0 or 1 competitor that can offer a comparable product (no, satellite and wireless internet is not really the same tier as a wired system) they can get away with this.

      Now, if these extra charges were REALISTIC compared to their costs + 15 percent profit I'd be fine with them.

      What would a realistic fee be? Well, how much is actually providing the bandwidth (versus running the wires themselves or advertising or tech support etc) actually costing the company? That is, what percentage of their total revenue goes to upgrading network switches, paying for higher quality wire, etc.

      That percentage is roughly what your fees should be going up by. The math isn't hard to understand.

      Suppose there's a $20 "base fee" that gets you 50 gigs a month, and providing more bandwidth costs 30% of the ISP's budget. Then the fee to double the 50 gigs to 100 gigs should be about 6 dollars.

      The power company in many states is regulated this way. A slight wrinkle in this is the power company IS allowed to charge people who consume too much power a penalty fee but this is because generating excess power causes pollution and thus it's in the public's best interest for private individuals to make their homes as efficient as possible. Extra internet traffic only costs a small amount more energy.

  • I'm still not sure what the problem is here? I watch most of my TV online via Hulu, Netflix, and a variety of other means. And I have Comcast High-Speed Internet with a 150 GB/month bandwidth cap. I have yet to even come close to passing that threshold, and Comcast has never complained to me about bandwidth usage. And I thought I was a "heavy user". Which leads me to believe that the true "heaviest users" must really be sucking up some serious bandwidth -- these are probably all the guys starting and hostin
    • Part of it depends on where they set the cap. Time Warner tried to set it at 5GB (with large overage fees) and had to back down due to overwhelming critical response.

      Of course, if they try it again, I'm pretty much stuck. They're the only high speed ISP in my neighborhood. It's either them or the not-that-supported-anymore Verizon DSL.

  • Wouldn't the best solution be to used local cached media servers inside each telcom/cable-co data center? For example, the most popular Netflix videos get cached locally on Netflix's own racked up servers. Cable within the city WAN has plenty of bandwidth. No need to charge extra for that. So the technical problem with data usage over paring agreements is solvable. Now it's just a business decision to make it happen between the content providers.

  • Some people seem to think that because this is happening with mobile internet, the same could happen on wired internet. But there is a problem. First off, there are TWO forms of wired internet and the infrastructure for that is there. The wires are in the ground and they are increasingly capable of higher and higher speeds. Fibre is often waiting to be even used. There is excess capacity readily available.

    Mobile is different, towers are not just expensive and prone to interference, getting a new tower up t

  • by james_van (2241758) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:35AM (#38236804)
    to fight this? The general public in America is so apathetic anymore that this is inevitable. Sure, we bitch and complain a lot, but when it comes time to actually do anything, nothing materializes. I'm genuinely surprised that the "Occupy" movement has lasted as long as it has, I figured it would fizzle completely in a few days. But, back to the point, this is a bad idea for me, the consumer. I don't give a rat's @ss that cable companies' profits are shrinking. That's not my fault. Put something worth watching on television at a convenient time and I'll sit down and watch it. I'll even watch the commercials. But the fact that I watch little to no network television is solely due to poor decisions on the parts of the providers and studios. Stop paying actors such ridiculous salaries, fire the horrible writers and get people with writing skills and tell compelling stories. Fire the executives that rake in disgusting paychecks and keep demanding dumbed down crap, "reality shows" and bad reboots. But don't tell me that I have to now pay more for my internet because you can't manage your finances like a grown up! But seriously, what do we do to prevent this from happening? I can cancel my internet.... oh wait, Comcast has a monopoly in my area so I can't leave. I can post a rant on Slashdot.... oh wait, that won't do anything. I can tell my neighbors about this and try to raise awareness, maybe organize a protest.... oh wait, it's America, they'll get all fired up, but never actually get off the couch. I can call my congressman.... oh wait, he's in the cable companies pocket. I can call Comcast and complain... oh wait, they don't give a $hit what I think. So what do we do? And not just about this, but about a lot of things. Look at the state America is in today, and on pretty much every issue, we the people are backed into a corner and have no real options. Personally, I'm ready to get out the pitchforks and torches.
  • by FridayBob (619244) on Friday December 02, 2011 @10:51AM (#38237050) Homepage
    ... when IIRC the MPAA and the RIAA managed to convince regulators that it was fair to add an additional tax to the sale of all audio and video tapes, incl. DAT. It's called the private copying levy [wikipedia.org]. They argued that, since it was safe to assume that the overwhelming majority of tapes would be used to make illegal copies of copyrighted content, the tax would go some way to compensating them for their losses. Of course, this idea was unfair, because it also taxed everyone who was not interested in music or Hollywood movies, or only recorded their own material. Nowadays it also applies to blank CDs and DVDs. However, this new proposal for a web usage tax is such a blunt instrument it makes the old "blank media tax", as it is also known, look like a razor.
  • Mesh networks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrquagmire (2326560) on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:30AM (#38237740)
    We really need to start thinking about things like mesh networks, with the proposed censorship bills and monopolistic ISPs doing with us as they please. I realize this is not exactly feasible at the moment, at least outside of densely populated areas, but we need to start thinking of alternatives to the current status quo.
  • by uncledrax (112438) on Friday December 02, 2011 @11:56AM (#38238156) Homepage

    Not like we didn't go through this before guys.. remember most dialup used to be like this.. then a company came around and said 'oh look.. UNLIMITED'.. then everyone went unlimited because they had to if they wanted to keep marketshare.
    Of course the problem is it was alot easier, and alot more choice, in Dialup.. basically, from my limited understanding, what Google in theory wants to do with Fiber (you have the pipe, who/what internet service you pick is up to you?).

    Let the companies charge for usage I say. But also let people become infuriated by it! Maybe enough of them will standup, cause someone to notice and create Unlimited plans again, and the people that care can get back to 'Unlimited' access again for another 10 years before the circle comes back around.

    • by forkfail (228161)

      There's a big difference here. We have allowed monopolies (and almost have to have them, as redundant physical networks doesn't make sense).

      In the case of the dial up ISP's, they didn't own both the physical and virtual media. Now, since it's almost all cable these days in most areas, they do.

  • by labradort (220776) on Friday December 02, 2011 @12:42PM (#38239018)
    Not all packets come from requests I make. Do I pay for getting DOSed or for spam, etc.?

    What about business services? They are normally charged based on bandwidth pipe, not volume.

    I don't think the proposal is well thought out.

  • Liars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sheik Yerbouti (96423) on Friday December 02, 2011 @12:53PM (#38239244) Homepage

    Really important thing to note from the article. They mention the profit margins on the broadband services are 95%. Anyone remember that bullshit about them needing to manage their networks because bandwidth was so pricey? If it's so pricey then how are they making 95% profit? I mean on my 69.00 a month data bill they are paying a total of 3.45 in fixed costs. That includes installation, support, sales, marketing, accounting etc... So the bandwidth cost is probably less than a buck. Wow pricey. They are such fucking greedy money grubbing boldface liars that think we are stupid enough not remember they said that. Most business don't enjoy 95% margins except for like high end audio and jewelry. Remember this the next time they start spouting bullshit about how put upon they are for us actually using the network we fucking paid for and they are reaping huge profits from. I hate these people.

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