Web Metering & Why It Won’t Work

The idea of the limitation of a service that has previously been unlimited is anathema to me. Not only do I feel this way on principle, I also feel that the reasons typically given for it are partially or completely wrong.

John Dvorak is someone I agree with more often than anyone else who writes on a consistent basis, but his article, currently in PC Magazine is way off.

1. Elimination of bandwidth caps, restrictions, and throttling. People make agreements with ISPs that state that they have limits on usage and might be capped if they go over. This is a problem associated with any all-you-can-eat scheme. It’s dumb. And since there is so much bad PR about it, companies have to throttle the connections rather than cap them, in many cases. It’s like the all-you-can-eat restaurant dealing with a larcenous fat family that comes in to gorge, taking advantage of the situation. How can anyone defend this? Also, metering would allow people to use their local machines as Web servers without worrying about some license violation or other.

The reason this is ludicrous is that with all users cowering, afraid that they will ‘go over their limits’ there will be no need for expansion. People currently not on line will stay that way, thinking that another possible runaway bill will do nothing for their home economy – others might do whatever they could to share, or possibly sponge off others who have a connection already.

2. Promotion of higher speeds. Everyone knows that the faster your connection, the more pleasant the experience. The more pleasant the experience, the more likely someone is to be online longer and use more bits. Because of this factor, the ISPs will be encouraged to crank up speeds in hopes of making more metered money. We’ll all be at 100 Mbps in no time.

Maybe. I’m not sure about this – but I don’t think anyone can predict this either – so I have to say John could be wrong, and I make no prognostication.

3. Moderate users would pay less than they pay now. I always feel bad for the guy who goes online for 10 minutes a day and pays the same flat fee as more dedicated users. That’s a ripoff. He should be paying for only what he is using.

Since this has worked so very well for the cable and satellite companies, I feel that there is simply no justification for this thought.  The ISPs are going to want some sort of minimum maintenance fee, which, for those using little of the service, again makes the whole situation unfair.

4. Download junkies would pay for their habit. As you read this, some idiot is downloading every movie ever produced for no reason other than that he can do so without getting caught, or that he’s a plain and simple pack rat. These people slow down the whole Web for everyone and are especially annoying to have on a local cable loop. Make them pay. Is that a bad idea?

Here John is right on. However, what about the companies who have geared up for Internet distribution of content? Hulu, Vudu, iTunes, and the rest will all fail under these circumstances, as once the additional fees for downloading from the ISP are added in, electronic distribution is suddenly untenable.

5. Spammers pay more for junking up the Web. Spammers are said to clog up about half to 75 percent of e-mail and much of overall Web traffic. They should pay! This would eliminate spam right away. And for those spammers who planned in advance to use botnets made up of dummies who leave their infected machines on all night, good luck with that scheme. These people will be charged for unknowingly sending out spam all night, every night. “Honey, did you see this bill?!” Metering the Web will stop it fast.

Here John is only partially right. The spam would greatly scale back, but the botnets would simply be moving from place to place, hopping about, still there, just causing grief for more people, just no one for any great length of time.

6. Elimination of the net neutrality issues. If Web usage is metered, nearly all the net neutrality issues go away.

Another maybe. It sounds good, but with the overall income lessened (according to Dvorak’s theory) those ISPs are going to want to bump up that income somehow. Charging extra for access to ‘specialized’ content is the perfect way to gain extra revenue.

7. Development of IPTV mechanisms. Once the Web is metered, business models that can account for the growth of IPTV, including independent distribution of TV content from Web sites and subscription services, can be developed for profitability in such a way that old-fashioned cable TV can slowly evolve into IPTV.

Refer to points 2 and 3 – without greater capacity, greater speed will not happen either. Also, since the cable industry has resisted the ‘a la carte’ method thus far, why should a change in delivery method cause any change – not justifiable from a logic standpoint. 

8. Energy savings (aka “green”). If you’re paying by the bit, you’ll want to turn off your machine and Web connection at night, right? I sure will.

True, and while everyone is saving electricity, and conserving internet usage, new developments for that internet don’t happen – stagnation occurs.

Although the exact mechanisms for metering are not yet developed, there is no way that the current all-you-can-eat model can continue much longer. It’s stupid, and it contributes to complex problems we do not need.

Someone needs to begin this transition process, because it’s going to happen sooner or later. And, yes, I really do suggest a government mandate.

Or we could simply leave things alone, which will force the expansion of the backbone and several new ‘arteries’ to feed that backbone would come about. Enforced net neutrality would even the playing field, and those who had to be capable of hosting high bandwidth would be moved to increase capabilities.

This is one of those situations where the only governmental intervention should be the enforcement of neutrality, and the careful eye on the areas currently left out of the mix. Between all the choices available for delivering speed to the customer, every one should get served.

So thanks John, you have started the process of discussion, and perhaps that was the point of the article – and perhaps you don’t really believe what you’ve written (g).

Does anyone else want to join in?

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