A metered Net could truly byte our diet of data
OK, we're using up all the Internet. C'mon guys, quit it. Cut it out. Force quit. Seriously, force quit. You're ruining it for the rest of us.
Our Internet service providers, who only have our best interests at heart (as we agreed under Paragraph 19c, Subsection J of our customer agreement), aren't pointing fingers (their lawyers still charge by the digit), but you know who you are.
So unfortunately, until we as a customer base learn how to control the gigabyte gluttons who surf the Net among us, I'm afraid our humble ISPs have little choice but to move toward doling out the downloads, bowl by bowl, like the orphan master's gruel in "Oliver Twist."
And if you live in Beaumont, Texas (where Time Warner has a metered Internet pilot project under way), and, like Oliver, are bold enough to say, "Please, sir, I want some more," you'll have to pay an extra $1 per gigabyte for whatever you get over your monthly allowance.
This is the darkly comical billing realignment that's about to land like a ton of megabricks, as ISPs prepare to charge users for their wear and tear on, rather than their access to, the Internet.
ISPs want to turn our living room into a kind of Internet cafe that gouges by the bit rather than the minute. But at least at cafes, there's usually a helpful coed with a shoulder tattoo who's on staff to click us out of any rough patches.
I doubt very much that that girl would be willing to make house calls. Actually, I think she'd be really disturbed if I called her.
But while the electricity that runs computers is a finite resource, the data coming through them is not. It's not like our heads of state are flying to the Mideast every nine months to beg the Saudis to drill for more bytes.
Never mind that broadband was sold to us with unlimited usage plans. Never mind that ISPs are already turning down the spigot on "unlimited" by "throttling" the Internet because they can't live up to their promises to date. They've corralled us into their broadband networks, and it's time to start shearing the sheep a little closer to the skin.
It might be true, as they assert, that a small fraction of users are hogging up half of the available bandwidth, and this sliver of reality makes a pay-as-you-go model seem almost fair.
It's also possible that ISPs see the writing on the Facebook Fun Wall. As the 35-and-unders move from watching TV on TVs to watching TV online, maybe Time Warner Cable is getting tired of losing money to Time Warner Internet.
Case in point: I recently canceled my cable service because almost every show I watch is now online. This saves me about $50 a month. Maybe a certain media conglomerate that's listed on the New York Stock Exchange wants that $50 back and is restructuring its billing architecture to make it happen.
So here we sit on the precipice of paying through the nose for any download usage past 40GB a month. Great. Who's ready for this? My passwords alone are half a terabyte.
Something can and must be done.
Next week: Things we can and must do.