No more flat rates, Internet cost to be based on usage

katie hoesley

For Internet users worldwide, the luxury of paying a flat fee every month for unlimited Internet access is one that future generations will know nothing of. Starting this fall, the experimental system that will charge Internet users based on how much and how often they use the Web will be used in cities like Austin, TX and Greensboro, N.C. The new system has potential to change the way people use the internet and amount of time individuals spend on the World Wide Web.

In a system similar to that of cell phone service charges, Internet provider Time Warner Cable will be charging their users based on the amount of bandwidth they use each month and additional fees for extra data use. Bandwidth is the rate of data transfer, such that the greater your bandwidth the greater your computer’s capability is to do multiple things at one time or to handle more information.

Time Warner Cable is the only company currently implementing this plan, one that is considered extreme by most current internet users, but AT&T and Comcast are not far behind. Jumping on the bandwagon, AT&T and Comcast are working out systems independently that will allow them to limit use and amount of data each customer can download monthly.

Many customers are concerned about the ways in which this change will impact their daily lives. The system limits everything from downloading images to sending e-mails to updating your Facebook page and will undoubtedly affect most, if not all, Internet users.

What is the motivation for the change? Time Warner Cable says that the reason behind straying away from the typical industry practice of unlimited access for a flat fee is to reduce congestion of its networks in order to improve the customer experience. They also claim that the new pricing system will only impact the heavy users, which only account for 5% of the company’s subscribers, so the other 95% have nothing to worry about.