So you've discovered that you can watch a huge variety of television programs over the internet, and this has caused to you to consider canceling your cable television service. It should come as no surprise that internet service providers that are also cable television suppliers are working on a way to short-circuit your wily plan. Time Warner Cable (TWC), for example, plans to introduce a new way of charging for internet access -- by the byte.
According to the Silicon Alley Insider, in some markets the company will set a limit on how many bytes you can suck from the internet pipes in a month, and when you exceed that limit, you'll be charged extra. This follows the model used by cell phone companies to soak chatty downloaders. BusinessWeek reports that the company will charge around $30 to $55 per month for internet access, based on the plan you choose: 5, 10, 20, 40, or 100 gigabytes per month. Overages will cost $1 per gigabyte (1 gigabyte = 1,000 megabytes).
I recently downloaded the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica (highly recommended) from iTunes, which ran to 11.5 gigabytes. And that wasn't even hi-definition. Add to this the shows that I watch online, including movies via Netflix, and all the other business I do via the net and I'd surely have to buy into the top-tier option.
If widely adopted, such a cap would certainly kill free access at coffee shops and the like. Considering how essential the internet has become to our everyday lives, I'm nervous about any measure that would choke access or price it out of reach for many. On the other hand, companies that keep the bits and bytes flowing have to eat, too. Don't be surprised if the government decides to take a stronger role in controlling pricing in the internet connection industry, as it has done with utilities.
Update, 24 hours later: That didn't take long- Congressman speaks out against Time Warner Cable's new billing plan