Act now or face an Internet with limits
The prospect of a pay-as-you-go metered Internet is getting more and more likely. For Digital Slobs this means the not-so-distant future might present a very expensive problem. Unfortunately, it's also a Catch-22.
You see, whether it's filing our taxes or finding the pizza joint closest to our ZIP code, we always go to only one place to sort out our complex issues -- that very same Internet that's suddenly causing us all this anxiety.
This puts us in a time crunch to figure a way out of this dilemma before we can no longer afford to figure a way out of it.
While there's still time and a few dollars in my bank account, I Googled "problem solving" and came across a simple, three-step process that we can apply:
Step 1: Understand the problem. If you are to be charged a monthly by-the-megabyte rate by your Internet provider, similar to the pilot project under way now in Beaumont, Texas, how much will you pay? Who knows how many zeroes and ones they actually use?
Well, simple desktop applications like BitMeter and Netmeter for Windows computers (SurplusMeter for Macintosh) can give you a fair measure of how many bytes your CPU chews on every day, week or month.
SurplusMeter showed me I'm on a 30GB/month pace, so I'd be paying about a $55 fee if I were under Time Warner's experimental thumb in Beaumont.
But if I ever go over that, I'd have to pay $1 extra per gigabyte. In the near future, when even fridges are hooked up to the Net (see model GD5VVAXT at www.whirlpool.com), everyone can expect their usage numbers to go way, way up.
Step 2: Devise a plan. The best approach involves a two-pronged attack -- make your own moves and, at the same time, enlist the help of others.
Step 3: Carry out the plan. As alert readers have pointed out, alternative providers, from the nationwide Clearwire to the local Mobi PCS in Hawaii, offer very competitive deals. So competitive, in fact, that major ISPs will likely think twice before doing away with buffet-style usage plans in big cities altogether, less they be further undercut by such services.
In more rural regions, however, broadband options -- just like restaurant or courtship options -- are sparse. Often, you're stuck with Dairy Queen, Beatrice the nightshift manager down at the laundromat, and Comcast.
If you're among those held in such captivity, your best bet is to write your congressman (www.house.gov/writerep) or join groups like InternetforEveryone.org, an initiative created by various organizations to make sure the Internet continues to be "fast and affordable for everyone."
On its home page is an interactive map that reveals state-by-state broadband penetration, and it's clearly proportioned to their comparative wealth (Massachusetts is at 61.1 percent, West Virginia is at 32.7 percent).
The group's point is that a broadband Internet is not a luxury, but rather a necessity for individuals to adequately compete in the Information Age.
Voice your opinion, America, unless you want your pursuit of happiness to be forever corralled into a toll road.