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FCC Approving Pay-As-You-Go Internet Plans

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the I'm-going-to-need-another-10-minutes-of-internet dept.

Government 414

An anonymous reader writes "As details emerge about the Federal Communications Commission's controversial proposal for regulating Internet providers, a provision that would allow companies to bill customers for how much they surf the Web is drawing special scrutiny. Analysts say pay-as-you-go Internet access could put the brakes on the burgeoning online video industry, handing a victory to cable and satellite TV providers. Public interest groups say that trend will lead to a widening gap in Internet use in which the wealthiest would have the greatest access."

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The U.S. Constitution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492588)

So where is any of this authorized by the Constitution? Article I, Section I states "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." Among the granted powers is not control of methods of communication, and certainly there is no justification for delegating legislative powers. One definition of tyranny could be the removal of legal protections.

Please keep in mind this is not an argument about the proper role of government. The states can create their own communications commissions and be operating within the Constitution.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (5, Insightful)

TheL0ser (1955440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492638)

Whenever you have to ask where something is in the Constitution, the answer is "Interstate Commerce". Even when it shouldn't be or isn't. Especially when it shouldn't be or isn't.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (3, Informative)

kenj0418 (230916) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492706)

[The Congress shall have the power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, among the several States, and with the Indian tribes

Article I, Section 8.

The interstate commerce clause is frequently misused - but telecom and the Internet seems to clearly be interstate commerce.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492864)

The Interstate Commerce Clause ("To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes") was only intended to keep the states from entering trade wars, not to dictate how, where, who, when trade will occur.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492984)

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It used to just be patched by them but politics has allowed it to be fully paved several layers deep.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (3, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493052)

I'm looking at it and it says "to regulate commerce", not "to regulate trade wars". If one of the reasons was to prevent trade wars, then it succeeds, sometimes. If another was to ensure the equitable distribution of federally-funded trade protections and infrastructure improvements, then it succeeds, sometimes.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (2)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492740)

Isn't not allowing them to bill via pay-as-you-go regulation as well? I am not a free-market idealist, I understand that it is not a perfect laissez faire system, but if ISPs started switching to this model, what is to stop an ISP from just doing things as SOP (flat-rate) and making hand over fist when all the streamers, gamers, downloaders jump ship of the ISPs bilking them from the new model?

Unless they all collude and the FTC (with the actual teeth) doesn't step in, or if it is decided that it isn't colluding by the govt. if they all go to this model, well, either way its pretty gay. I think the fact of the matter is big-business (telcos,media) has the politicians too in-debted via contributions for any argument to matter. It will just be a continual decline in the quality of service we as consumers receive, as the rest of the world surpasses us here in the US. Their might be another veil on it, but we can never divorce the pig as long as corporations can donate money to politicos like they currently do.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (2)

gatzby3jr (809590) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493028)

I think it's important to note what's been pointed out many times here on slashdot.

In many, many areas there isn't another ISP to jump ship to - there is only one, or dialup.

That's not much of a choice in my book.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (2)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493078)

what is to stop an ISP from just doing things as SOP (flat-rate) and making hand over fist when all the streamers, gamers, downloaders jump ship of the ISPs bilking them from the new model?

Nothing, except that most of those people won't actually be able to jump ship, since, if they're lucky, they'll be choosing between two providers who both have pay-as-you-go plans. Your idea assumes people can easily switch to a new provider, which when it comes to high speed internet in the U.S. isn't generally the case.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493124)

What about the ISPs of ISPs? Will T1's get usage costs, too? Where does it end? Can the owners of the trunk lines charge for usage? Will the government start taxing Internet usage?

The scary part is that usage costs can trickle upstream very easy. You pay your ISP for usage and then they have to pay their upstream for usage, etc., etc., etc. How many times can the same data be charged for? This could easily cascade into an Internet meltdown. Especially if you consider other countries might be charged for their traffic to and from the US and the the rest of the world gets in on the game.

It's a doom and gloom scenario, but one that is very much possible.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492800)

@Anonymous Coward

Actually, states can't create their own communications commissions and still be operating within the Constitution. As Kenji said, this is clearly an interstate commerce issue, which is a power that was explicitly given by the Constitution to Congress, not the states. In any case, do you think it is conducive to commerce at all to have to contend with 50 separate communications commissions all having conflicting regulations about how interstate communications can be undertaken?

Re:The U.S. Constitution (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493040)

Technically, the companies should be able to charge whatever they want, and the playing field should be a level one with multiple choices so the consumer can choose which company it wants to get service from. Theoretically, this is how capitalism is supposed to work, and if it was left alone to work, it would do just fine. But then the FCC and Congress has to fuck up and get involved and consumer choice goes tits up in regulated monopolies.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493070)

First of all, I believe that the FCC is an independent agency that falls under the executive branch. Second of all, article 1 gives two clauses as a basis for extending legislative power: The Necessary and Proper clause:

The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

and the Commerce Clause:

[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.

. The two basically provide a (legally if not logically) solid defense against unconstitutional takedowns in the supreme court, plus the fact that the supreme court hasn't been all too active in judicial review of late. Also, as a side note, the constitution is not an exclusive document. There are implied as well as enumerated powers, in addition to ones granted by law and tradition.

Re:The U.S. Constitution (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493206)

This isn't about the Constitution, this is about why lobbyists need to severely regulated, or done away with altogether. If voters went to the capital and claimed to be lobbyists they'd be laughed out the door and probably thrown in jail (or just jailed). Yet we allow corps, wealthy non-profits, and anyone else with cash to by-pass the voting process and influence lawmakers??? What the hell???

Bandwidth huh? (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492640)

TFA = about 20k
Web 2.0 crap plus ads= 1.6 megs
or some such

Lynx Lives Again!

Bad idea for consumers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492658)

With people being oblivious to the "as they go" part, that's not in the consumer's interest. Besides, you don't really want students to worry "Oh I'd really like to read about integrals, but don't like to pay extra for going to the Wikipedia article, or watch a course on youtube".

Pay as you type (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492660)

How about pay as you type for forum responses?

Then maybe you won't get the posts like:


Re:Pay as you type (1)

AltairDusk (1757788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492754)

Sadly I think that would affect the productive posts more than things like the "FIRST POST OMG!!!" trend as well-thought and useful posts tend to be longer. It could also result in the horror of every forum post on the web looking like a teen's text messages. (Imagine how each slashdot comment you read would look in 'txtspeak')

A la carte cables (5, Insightful)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492676)

It's funny how cable companies all want us to pay as we go for internet access, yet still insist on pushing bundlings of hundreds of TV channels on us if we want to use cable TV.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492716)

Ah, but you can only watch one channel at a time!

Re:A la carte cables (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492842)

Ah, but you can only watch one channel at a time!

Untrue. I can watch as many channels as I have TVs.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492918)

Sometimes more, with picture-in-picture and an analog connection for the low channels.

Re:A la carte cables (2)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493002)

or if you know what you're doing, you can watch probably 4-6 channels per TV.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493080)

But you need a cable tuner for each of them. A box or a card. So they sell you service on a per-TV basis, too.

Re:A la carte cables (2)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493114)

Sensible answer: Since the reciever doesn't send a request for a specific channel, and can record one channel when you watch another, you must logically be getting every channel (including those you can't watch because they're scrambled). A sufficiently powerful digital box could grab all the feeds in parallel.

Max Headroom answer: If you compressed all the data sufficiently, you might very well be able to watch all the channels simultaneously. The brain's I/O bandwidth is probably greater than Comcast's.

Silly Answer: Since 3D television works on the idea of one eye recieving one channel and the other eye recieving a different channel, you could watch two channels at the same time.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493330)

Since the reciever doesn't send a request for a specific channel

Not in the era of SDV switched digital video, where the channels are dynamically remapped based on what yer neighbors are watching.

Not much different from how movies on demand work, except that with SDV, multiple boxes can watch a stream.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

AltairDusk (1757788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492790)

It would be nice if they weren't trying to force a phone service I don't want down my throat either. When cable + internet + phone is cheaper than cable + internet with the same provider something is very wrong...

Re:A la carte cables (2)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493156)

If that were the case.....

I'd get the phone line. Then attach a machine to the phone line that responds with annoyingly loud modem noise. I would then not care if my number is published and actively get that number on every telemarketer list possible.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

cob666 (656740) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492848)

What is even more interesting about this is that some cable companies are using the internet as their distribution channel and they are converting their phone services to VOIP.

If the plans offer a reasonable limit on downloads then I don't see a problem with tiered service with an additional cost per GB (as long as the additional costs are reasonable which I highly doubt) then I don't see any problems with this. I know I'm being naive but it would be nice to pay less per month when I'm not using the internet a lot. But this raises other issues about installed software that thinks nothing of phoning home every time you run an application to see if there is a newer version and automatically downloading patches and updates.

Re:A la carte cables (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492878)

I'm certainly no fan of Comsucks, but in their defense: The bundling deals are a requirement of NBC, Disney, and other channel owners. Comcast HAS to buy the bundle rather than individual channels, therefore they'd gain nothing sell you just MSNBC which also comes with CNBC, Bravo, Syfy, Telemundo.

As for internet:

I don't see how pay-as-you-go would save any customer any money. You can already get DSL for as cheap as $15 and Dialup as cheap as $7. If all you need is email access plus some web browsing, then buy one of those plans. It's not like cellphones where pay-as-you-go saves cash.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492928)

I know that media companies require the bundling of channels by cable companies. My question is why I can't simply choose to buy a bundle (for example, the NBC bundle you listed) instead of being forced to buy the 700 other channels the cable company offers. Those 700 other channels aren't required to be bundled with the NBC bundle.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493152)

It might not save us money, but we might be able to get the channels we actually want for the same amount of money.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492926)

The thing with "hundreds of channels" in broadcast is you have ONE PIPE. Six thousand people are a matter of six thousand runs of cable off the nearest hub. The hub gets one stream to it.

With unicast IP traffic, however, you have 300 people accessing the same YouTube video. You cache the YouTube video so you don't have to pay your upstream provider. Then you down-link the same video 300 times to the hub, and out once to each user from there. Unless you're a Tier 1 telco, you're leasing the local lines, and overloading them.

The biggest problem here is, of course, "unlimited" internet worked great at the 128k level. With 50 megs of downstream every fucking second, though, economy of scale fails. This wasn't a problem because you generally got as much as continuous 128k/s overall...

... then we decided to replace broadcast television with unicast IP streaming.

Re:A la carte cables (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492956)

It's funny how cable companies all want us to pay as we go for internet access, yet still insist on pushing bundlings of hundreds of TV channels on us if we want to use cable TV.

I guess my cable company doesn't offer that yet, because they laughed when I asked for 31-bit IP access, not the extended content available on the full 32-bit IP range.

The old days... (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492684)

I remember when CompuServe charged $12/hour.

Then GEnie came along and charged $18/hour during business hours and $6/hour at night.

Re:The old days... (2)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492862)

Exactly,the consumers want pay as you go internet. How many discussions on slashdot have we had against download caps/restrictions where the only logical conclusion is pay as you go internet. You can't have unlimited throughput, no restrictions, and a low price! It doesn't work, because the peak bandwidth does cost money. The ISP industry needs to either put restrictions on how much you can use per package, or they need pay as you go. We the consumers have pushed them there because of how much we consume, and I for one welcome pay as you go.

Re:The old days... (1)

pooh666 (624584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493092)

ok who do you work for?!

Re:The old days... (1)

Troggie87 (1579051) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493234)

The argument agains this is that companies like, say, Charter, will simply put the per MB price so high that consuming media through the internet is infesible. Which is oddly convenient for a company that would then control the only cost-effective media delivery system, a.k.a. cable. Perhaps they make some deal with Microsoft to route X-Box live traffic seperately for a fee, but past that I'm doubtful.

Re:The old days... (1)

Beorytis (1014777) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493268)

Exactly,the consumers want pay as you go internet.

Only problem (right now) is that if we start to pay as we go, we'll need better ways of knowing how much we're going. If I end up with pay as you go, I want to know how much my online activities are going to cost before I do them. E.g. If it costs me $0.10 every time I visit my credit card website, I might pay the premium for paper statements.

Re:The old days... (1)

Shark (78448) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493320)

It would also promote efficiency. 'unlimited' data leads to a lot of waste in my opinion. When there's some constraint on bandwidth (even relatively mild), it makes people consider cost/benefit of whatever they put/get online.

just that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492694)

you can't use visa or mastercard to pay....HAHA

I might be okay with this on one condition... (5, Insightful)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492708)

...if the telecoms also give me pay-as-i-go cable TV plans. Why haven't they caught up with customer demand? Just let me pick which channels I want to watch and pay less for only those channels instead paying a premium for a bunch of channels I wont watch. The options they give are baffling. Pay very little for local channels, or pay a fuckload for 200+

Re:I might be okay with this on one condition... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492808)

I'd go a step further...cable boxes and satellite boxes are pretty I should only pay for the time that I'm watching the channels too.

Re:I might be okay with this on one condition... (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493218)

Except that cable and satellite boxes are also pretty low-power too. I know a TON of people who power off their TV when they're not watching it, but leave their cable/sat receiver on all the time. I'd wager a fairly significant percentage of the population would pretty quickly get hit with a bill saying they were watching TV 24/7, which they may have only been watching for a small fraction of that.

Re:I might be okay with this on one condition... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492906)

...if the telecoms also give me pay-as-i-go cable TV plans. Why haven't they caught up with customer demand? Just let me pick which channels I want to watch and pay less for only those channels instead paying a premium for a bunch of channels I wont watch.

The actual marginal cost for the individual channels is small, most of the cost to the cable company is the fixed cost for the connection. So, when you do get either pay-as-you-go (which would be everything is pay-per-view), or a-la-carte (pay per channel) cable pricing, expect the basic connection fee to be most of the cost of the lowest existing cable package, while at the most common level of viewing, the total charge is a little bit higher (to account for the higher cost associated with the more flexible billing) than the average current cost, with less cost-free flexibility (on a pay-go plan, you can't watch more quantity without more cost; on an a-la-carte plan you don't have access to check out a show you've heard about on a new channel.)

There has been building pressure for it, so I'm sure that one of these options will be mandated, but when it is, I bet the people who cried out for it are going to wish they hadn't.

Re:I might be okay with this on one condition... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492968)

Why haven't they caught up with customer demand?

Because the customer isn't demanding it. We're still paying large sums for bundled channels, most of which we never touch. When we all start cancelling the service, citing bundle-bollox, they'll be able to go to their real customers, the advertisers, with new ammunition on why they need to pressurized the channel owners to allow unbundling.

Re:I might be okay with this on one condition... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34493112)

it would be better if there was tv neutrality, but you can be forgiven for missing the point. neutral media packages are also equal.

Re:I might be okay with this on one condition... (1)

Twintop (579924) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493166)

As much as I agree with you about al a carte cable TV, it would kill the over-the-top selection. It is the major/core channels that supplement the costs for all of the specialty channels that get included in the current packages.

Problem (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492718)

They will also want to charge content creators on the same bandwidth so they can profit more on the same bandwidth, but not actually invest into upgrading their infrastructure to handle the traffic and thus negating the need to have tiered or metered plans.

Captialism, ho.

Sure, I'll take metered internet (1)

mykos (1627575) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492722)

As soon as they provide me at least a 30 mbit connections with a maximum fee of $50 per month. Companies seem to be able to do that just fine outside of the US and Australia.

You'll take metered internet... (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492936)

You'll take metered internet (or not internet at all) when the providers serving your area decide that's the only thing they want to offer.

Re:You'll take metered internet... (1)

mykos (1627575) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493098)

You make me sad, sir, because you are correct.

Re:You'll take metered internet... (1)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493210)

Then I'll take no home internet at all, and take my laptop down to a Starbucks or a Barnes & Noble and buy a coffee when I need to jack in.

Yet another bit of history repeating (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492734)

When the commercial Internet started it was all PAYG at least in my corner of the world. You paid fixed price per connection and price per meg. Only large ISPs and their like managed to get fixed rate deals. Joe Casual user and Joe's Company Ltd paid per MB.

One of the first thing I had to write when I became employee No 6 in what was to become a large ISP in my country was exactly that - the traffic data collection, accounting and billing system.

The Telcos, Cablecos, etc _REMOVED_ all this when they entered the Internet market because it did not align with their legacy billing systems for legacy services. However, now the Internet is more important that the precious legacy voice or PPV so it is not surprising that things have come around full circle and "does not fit our billing system" is no longer a valid business reason.

Duh! Get ready for it (0, Flamebait)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492788)

Like every utility, customers are eventually going to be paying fees that relate to their usage of the resource. I know this is an alien concept for you younger slashdot users who only know the world your marxist prof has taught you about but consider this a learning experience. Deal with it.

When the usage levels between users can be more than 100 to 1 it can't be fair. Either you have the low usage customers subsidizing the net hogs or you price the service where the low usage customers simply cannot justify the service. Or the government meddles and makes things go from bad to worse.

Lets examine the rest of the utility world. Do we have flat rate electricity? No. Do we have flat rate water? No. We sometimes have flat rate sewer but more often it is tied to water consumption on the assumption that most of your water eventually goes down the drain.

We do tend to have flat rate cable because a) until recently it would have been hard to meter and b) it doesn't cost the cable company more if you watch more. On Demand changes that model and guess what, most on demand programming carries a charge. But the biggest pushback against paying for cable by usage is the advertisers wouldn't like people getting into the habit of switching off unless they were actually paying attention and it would end useless (often bundled) channels being able to collect fees per set when nobody was watching.

So yes, if you are using more of a scarce resource you should expect to pay more. This is econ 101, which I realize is a scarce skill here but ignorance of reality doesn't mean you can ignore it.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492850)

Electric is nothing like this, more than 60% of my bill is some sort of non-variable having electricity fee.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492954)

Yeah, I bet the other 40% is based on the number of kilowatt-hours you use. For me, 70% of my electric bill is based on the amount of energy I use, which makes sense.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493000)

Yeah, the other 40%. Which means I spend more on some sort of flat rate that the gp would call "marxist", please ignore the fact that this makes no sense as he is pretty uneducated.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493238)

> Which means I spend more on some sort of flat rate that the gp would call "marxist"

Not all flat rates are bogus. Yes there IS a cost involved with just having an electric meter. The electric company has to maintain the fixed infrastructure to service a customer regardless of usage. The billing department's expenses are pretty much fixed per account, etc. There are fixed regulatory fees to pay, etc. When the fixed portion is so high though you should be a bit suspicious that they haven't bribed some politicians to let em hose ratepayers or the politicians aren't imposing 'Robin Hood' surcharges to subsidize the rates of preferred groups. First be sure you aren't on the electric company's rate leveling plan as it will screw with the numbers big time.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492898)

What about off peak usage? Should someone using bandwidth during peak usage hours be charged the same as someone who uses it off-peak? Bandwidth is a resource whose scarcity depends on others' use. How you are charged should be based on time of use and bandwidth used. The total amount used shouldn't be the only factor.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (0)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493034)

> The total amount used shouldn't be the only factor.

Probably not. And even electricity is some areas is priced that way. If we had a free market in Internet service it would work itself out soon enough.

Too bad we don't have anything like one. In one corner we have The Phone Company, a huge bloated government granted monopoly so old and senile it almost let the Internet slip through its fingers. So tied to the government it is difficult to see where the government stupid ends and the corporate idiocy begins. In the other is the new scrapy upstart cable monopolies, not quite as tied to the government but desperate to fix that defect. Circling the two lumbering behemoths are a few hopelessly out of their league wireless providers... ignoring the majority who are just divisions of The Phone Company.

Wireless isn't going to meet the demands of broadband hidef content, probably won't ever even handle YouTube on smartphones. And forget sat, latency kills.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (2)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493044)

Tle old International Packet Switch Stream used pay-as-you-use and it was in a hell of a lot more countries than the Internet, with far more secure services. It died.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34493056)

Electricity: Mostly constant network costs, variable power production costs.
Internet: Mostly constant network costs, no data production costs (for the carriers).
Electricity: Billing mostly for the variable power usage (price per kWh)
Internet: Billing mostly for the variable data volume (price per MB)

Can you not see what's wrong with this picture?

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493188)

It's funny to see the moralizing "you should pay what you use for!" types try to defend this. You know what? "Pay as you go" would be reasonable if they actually charged you a good (low) flat rate based on the costs you incurred. But the actual billing scheme is so far divorced from those real costs it's rather hilarious.

They're just abusing their monopoly (sometimes a geographic monopoly, sometimes regulatory too) to extract more money from you. There's nothing good and righteous and wonderful about that, really.

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493200)

I already pay for use by buying the top-tier bandwidth option and fitting into their stochastic model of peak usage.

But usage patterns have changed and they think they can ask for more money because now I'm using my Internet as a TV, which is outside the stochastic model they used to produce the cost apportioned to me when they set the tiered pricing model.

But the resource isn't actually scarce. I paid for unlimited usage of a 30-mbps link. It will be scarce when I need to get more than 30 mb of data into each second. And then I'll go to their competitor, who is now offering a 40-mbps option (but I'm leery of the reality of that, since it's DSL).

Re:Duh! Get ready for it (1)

Cloudgatherer (216427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493314)

Like every utility, customers are eventually going to be paying fees that relate to their usage of the resource.

Except bandwidth is not a resource. Water, electricity, and gasoline are examples of resources paid for by consumption, because once the resource is expended it is gone. Hence the reason why those are paid for by the amount used.

Bandwidth is similar to renting. You pay your rent whether you are there or not and this ensures that it is there when you want it. "Renting" does not use up the residence for the next guy who rents the place after you (under most circumstances). So, the parallels to other utilities are pointless comparisons. The comparison to current cable TV is valid, except your post ignores any "resource" argument, instead citing advertisers. There are many other valid comparisons as well, such as monthly subscriptions to newspapers, gaming services (MMOs, others), and entertainment such as NetFlix.

I do not think the idea of pay per MB/GB (or whatever) is a good idea in the slightest. The average technical savvy of an end user is simply not sufficient enough to handle it, and there were examples of this pay-per-usage already for mobile phones with data plans (some of the early iPhones always accessing the internet, racking up a bill in a month of 1000+ dollars unknown to the phone owner). I do not dispute that those who abuse bandwidth, (un)knowingly or not, should not be limited in some fashion, but monetarily is the wrong way to go here.

By use is fine if the prices are sane (1, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492834)

I would say 10 cents a GB would be great. Those could even be per GB at a certain rate, or time of time. So they can sell higher speeds or different usage patterns.

Re:By use is fine if the prices are sane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34493172)

No, pricing per GB is not fine. Data volume is an irrelevant metric for network usage. Among themselves, internet providers never use volume based pricing! It simply does not reflect the costs in any meaningful way.

How much does an isp pay? (1)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492892)

How much do ISPs pay for their connectivity? Can they get flat rate access and if yes, how much does something like an un-metered gig/sec connection cost per month/year?

Re:How much does an isp pay? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492942)

This varies a lot, Tier 1 providers just have peering points and own the equipment, they then trade carriage of each others data. Smaller providers rent OC lines and pay huge fees but are allowed to soak the line 24x7, then they oversell that.

Re:How much does an isp pay? (0)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492992)

Look up Tier 1 service providers

Blame Canada (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34492902)

For once, you really can say "Blame Canada". Our oligopoly is raping us on the cost, the monthly caps, the limited 3rd-party choices who are also getting raped with bandwidth costs.

In the near future it might very well be worth it to live 100 meters of the border and get wireless internet from an USA provider.

Re:Blame Canada (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493162)

It's about as bad if not worse in the states. Living withing 100m of the border won't help you.

Re:Blame Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34493228)

50$CAD (39.60 USD, before you make any joke) per month for 5mbps, combined download+upload monthly cap of 35GB.

Add another 10$ on top of that because you have no choice but to rent "their" modem and then about 12-15% of taxes on top of that.

Still think it's worst in the USA?

Re:Blame Canada (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493324)

I don't know. I'm paying $50 per month + taxes (so more than you). I also have a rented modem (though that cost isn't itemized), and only 3 Mbps, so slower than you. I am however, uncapped, which I guess is a big plus. Still, for the bandwidth I have, I feel like I'm overpaying quite a bit.

Wave goodbye to the industry (3, Funny)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492904)

>Analysts say pay-as-you-go Internet access could put the brakes on the burgeoning online video industry,

No, it won't. Like advanced cellphone systems earlier this century the industry will simply move to where it is viable. America will limp on with inferior general service then deny that the service is inferior and proclaim it a world besting triumph of technology.

Re:Wave goodbye to the industry (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493278)

Pretty much this.

Technology will develop where it can. It will not develop where it cannot. Simple as that.

There is a very good reason why there are so few high tech companies are in Africa. Why? Because the infrastructure just plain sucks. Unreliable power, hard to get internet, logistics a nightmare... if you want the same, go ahead. Companies, especially those dependent on readily available and cheap internet technology, will go to countries where, well, internet technology is available and cheap. Europe, for exapmle. A perfect internet network, little downtime, affordable rates and in general on par with the US when it comes to other perks.

Why bother opening a company that depends on the internet in the US?

Man, if only... (0)

njvack (646524) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492908)

Wouldn't it be great if someone would start a pay-as-you-go scheme for electricity? Or long-distance telephone service? Or gasoline?

Flat-rate services rely on light users subsidizing heavy users. If the rates are fair, pay-per-use is a good idea -- certainly better than arbitrary data caps that might get enforced god-knows-when.

And yes, people with lots of money can afford to buy more stuff. That's how it works.

Re:Man, if only... (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493086)

...If the rates are fair...

There's the rub. The rates won't be fair. At least not in a neighborhood like mine where the cable company has a monopoly. The rates aren't fair already.

Re:Man, if only... (1)

Beorytis (1014777) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493292)

It's also about paying a premium to not have to think "how much is this going to cost" every time you use the service.

what's the problem (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492916)

the majority of customers will pay about the same price as they are paying now. the price is set according to how much the companies can milk. the detail doesn't matter.

if you have to download 10x movies than the average population, why is it that the other customers should fund your hobby?

Re:what's the problem (1)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493190)

What you are saying is that what we have today is good enough for the future, as far as the eye can see. You do not want to watch videos on Youtube, you do not want programming delivered over the Internet, you do not want news delivery via podcasts over the Internet, or real time maps, or traffic/weather reports.

I do not "fund your hobby" when you watch all the sports channels 24/7, and you do not "fund my hobby" when I watch YouTube videos all day. But when TelcomX charges you a flat rate to deliver "Sports Bits" to support your "hobby" while I pay out the WaZoo to seek programming outside the control of TelcomX....

THEN the problem still isn't that I am paying for your hobby!!! Like you imply, nothing has changed except....

I am getting shafted in an attempt to force me back onto their broadcast schedule!!! My "hobby" and your "hobby" are no different. We are both sucking down bandwidth. But the media companies can control the broadcast schedule of your "Sport Bits" hobby, while my DIY entertainment schedule eludes their control, and denies media companies their Advertisement Eyeballs.

Re:what's the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34493326)

... will pay about the same price as they are paying now ...

So will my bill go up or down? I'm guessing that the phone and cable companies aren't looking to suddenly lose revenue on this. My rates will go up, I'm sure.

In other news, 640k is enough memory for everyone, too.

How Depressing. (1)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34492966)

Seriously, why do we have to pay more as improvements in technology drive the costs towards zero?

I don't much care if we go to a "Pay as you go" as long as the cost of such access continues to drive towards zero the same way everything else with computer systems has done historically. However, if we do not have competition, and we allow the big companies to erect huge barriers to entry against competition, then not only will this cost us as consumers, but will bash our ability to compete in the world, and bash our economy into the ground.

The FCC has no responsibility to safeguard the income for Internet providers, Cable providers, or Media companies. Their responsibility is to the citizens and to establish fair rules for competition. However, competition doesn't have the political clout that corporate America has.

Re:How Depressing. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493246)

why do we have to pay more as improvements in technology drive the costs towards zero?

Because that's what the capitalist economic model is all about.

From each according to his ability to pay, to each according to his ability to avoid paying.

Sure, with the stipulation... (1)

Troggie87 (1579051) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493048)

... that it is definitively legal for communities to install their own fiber and operate city-owned internet services. If metered internet and traffic shaping is actually being done to give the best price to the greatest amount of people, then certainly some small down in nowhersville Iowa is no threat. No need to sue them at all. Right?

Unless this is all an elaborate scheme to maximize profit to the detriment of the consumer. Then one self sufficient city-owned internet provider with great speed and low cost could be a dangerous thing indeed.

The $14.95 DSL days are finally ending (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493060)

We have been the victims of market share building exercises since 1995. The concept of offering service to people at rates that are unsupportable doesn't work long term. Clearly.

The problem with IPTV is the physical capacity on both cable and DSL doesn't exist. You can't support a star configuration fed from the head end where the combined bandwidth at the "node" is higher than can be served with any reasonable physical connection. The way things have been built today doesn't support IPTV even at fairly low resolutions and high compression. What we have today is a few early adopters trying out HD resolutions. If this grows, and it probably will, nobody is going to have decent service until they dig up all of the cables and replace everything with dedicated fiber from the head end to every house. Which is silly and isn't going to happen anytime soon.

IPTV? Get it while you can, because it isn't going to last out of the early adopter period. There simply isn't the bandwidth available to every home. Or even half.

Somehow, I'd expect prices to skyrocket as this happens. Or demands for payment from anyone with a financial interest in delivering content to homes. Or both.

Party in my Car (1)

pooh666 (624584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493062)

War driving time baby!

Gap between the wealthy and the poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34493076)

Guess what... the wealthy are always going to be able to have nicer things than the poor. Nothing in life is going to change that, despite how hard some people try.

Ad Blocking (5, Insightful)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493126)

I've never much minded internet advertisements as long as they weren't popups, popovers, or popunders. But if I have to start paying for every bit delivered to me, my hosts file is gonna get big fast, adblock and javascript blocking will become required addons for all my web browsers. Every business that advertises on the web should be screaming bloody murder at internet providers to not implement this. It will decimate the internet revenue model for many companies.

Got what ya wanted (3, Interesting)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493150)

Here ya go, net-neutrality proponents: a per-byte charge. Did you really expect otherwise?

Might be Amusing.... (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493196)

It's going to be a bit humorous when 90% of Americans shit their pants at not being able to watch kitty cat videos on Youtube for less than $50 per month. Or when the cost of their Netflix services suddenly triple. I'll start stocking up on popcorn now.

I Fear $50 + The Meter (4, Informative)

zentec (204030) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493250)

There's two reasons for consumption based-billing:

1. Make Netflix a lot less inexpensive in order to keep the profit line strong on their own video offerings.

2. Raise prices. Consumption based billing won't be less expensive for people who are light users because broadband service will be $50 for the privilege of having the coax terminate at the house, and *then* you pay what the meter says. And it won't be cheap; I would not rule out several dollars per gigabyte. By doing so, the ISP has a nice fat recurring revenue stream for doing absolutely nothing, and a service pricing structure that encourages you not to use the service.

I don't have a problem with consumption based billing. I have a problem to the GOTHCA! capitalism of having Wall Street and its corporate minions finding yet another way to fleece the public.

Spam anybody? (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493260)

Let me get this straight, an ISP could bill you for forwarding your email spam that you didn't want in the first place? Looks like they have zero incentive to do anything to prevent it.

The reason this is dumb (1)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493272)

Bandwidth isn't like gas. Nobody's mining extra bandwidth or depleting our nation's bandwidth reserves. The cost of data transfer, for a provider, doesn't scale linearly with customer use like a commodity might; up to a certain capacity, it should cost them more or less (not exactly, but close to) the same to operate a network at peak capacity or one at lower than peak capacity. So if I'm transferring 1 MB/hr or 1000 MB/hour, as long as the network isn't being overtaxed and slowed down by my usage it shouldn't matter how much I'm transferring. This is why a flat rate (or bandwidth tier) makes sense for ISPs, and is a fair arrangement with the consumer.

Pay as you go makes it easier to bilk customers and introduce ridiculous fees out of proportion with the cost of the service. Consider the massive disparity in how much you pay in terms of the actual bandwidth used for text messages, as opposed to voice or data.

Now, I'm not an expert in this. It may be that there's some aspect of this I'm not seeing. But as near as I can tell, pay as you go is strictly bullshit that will lead to consumers paying more for the same service and is a gateway to greater price hikes and obfuscation of actual costs.

This makes sense IF THE RATES ARE REASONABLE (2)

jpstanle (1604059) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493282)

As long as the per-byte rate is in line with current costs, I don't see the problem with it. Moving bits costs money, and moving more bits costs more money. I've always thought broadband providers should behave more like public utilities given their government endorsed monopoly of the infrastructure.

If we paid by the byte, it would eliminate the need for arbitrary data caps. If I want to pull down a terabyte in a week, I can. I just pay more than my neighbor who only downloaded a few GB in that same week. That seems fair, right?

The problem though, as it always is with telcos, is that the pricing will NOT be fair. The cable companies in particular are trying desperately to make a grab for the lost revenue in their PPV and other cable TV cash cows as people opt for cheaper alternatives like Netflix.

More justification for AdBlock... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34493286)

This is all the more reason to start blocking ads. Not only do they intrude on the Web pages, provide avenues for blackhats to compromise people through addon exploits, and obtain persistant tracking data, but one has to pay for their presence with this system.

And they think piracy is bad now? (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493288)

If they move ahead to a pay-as-you-go model, I believe more people will knowingly and willfully become software and media pirates. It will create a huge black market for downloaded media files, which will get exchanged via sneakernets around the country. Once they start charging per Mb/Gb, more and more people will take the risks associated with piracy, because it will make the relative cost of digital media far too high.

I have a friend who lives in a rural area where his only Internet access options are Deep Blue or He's been trying to leave Deep Blue because their service has been horrible (very inconsistant throughput rates), but has caps set at 200Mb,300Mb, and 400Mb, depending on the plan you choose. They come straight out and call it their "Fair Play" policy--that they automatically throttle anyone who reaches a daily bit limit, and they specifically note that their service is not suitable for streaming video services like Netflix. The funny thing is that they push potential customers who want to download streaming video toward their premium plan, which still has a 400Mb cap--it still would be largely worthless for pulling online video.

Phone company plans always used to be pay-as-you-go. The development of unlimited use plans arose as a marketing tool to win more customers in competitive markets, and it eventually became a very common option in the consumer market (businesses almost always have pay-as-you-go plans). If this really happens, it won't take a rocket scientist to realize that any ISPs who stick to no-cap unlimited use plans will immediately have a competitive advantage over others (like [...ahem..] Comcast) who are likely to try to milk the new cash cow afforded by such changes.

Why do I feel like I'm gonna get screwed by this? (1)

Triv (181010) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493296)

I was just talking to a coworker about this.

I use an above-average amount of bandwidth. Between Netflix and gaming and youtube and the occasional bittorrent, I feel like, without having any hard numbers at-hand because Comcast's bandwidth meter can't be found on their website (despite their steamroller media blitz that hyped up how proactive it makes people at watching their usage. Way to fail, Comcast,) I fall on the higher end of the usage spectrum but nowhere near the 250gb/month cap; probably 80gb - 100gb if I had to guess, maybe even 50-60gb most months.

It would make sense to me that, since I fall on the upper-end of the usage spectrum compared to, say, bittorrent seeders on one end and grandmas who check their email every couple days on the other, my bill would stay more or less the same on a metered plan, grandma's would drop significantly and Mr. torrent freak's would go up; a reduction would be nice, but I would be okay with not paying more.

However. If (heh. If.) the cable companies see this as a way of milking all their customers for all they're worth as an incentive to get them to pay more for an unlimited plan by scaring them with an inflated per MB bill...

Yeah. This could be good if the rates are reasonable, but I'll eat my hat if that turns out to be the case.

Welcome back (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34493298)

To the days of the 56k.
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