Feb 092011
 

Electricitymeterb What a wild ride we've all enjoyed over the last decade and a half or so, but – and as earlier predicted – this looks likely to soon end.

You might have read recently about the internet running out of IP addresses.  I don't mean to belittle the underlying problems posed by the exhaustion of the somewhat less than 4.3 billion IP addresses currently available, but there is another problem looming that will probably have much greater impact on most of us.

So many of the internet services we increasingly know, love, and have come to rely upon, assume and are only viable in a scenario where there is effectively unlimited free internet bandwidth available to both the service provider and the service consumer.

What would happen if our current 'all you can use' internet access accounts were replaced with usage based charges, so that our monthly cost varies upwards depending on how much data we upload and download each month?

Alas, this is a question whose time has come, with a nasty answer being rudely thrust upon many internet users in Canada right now.

For more about this issue, please read our new article, Warning – The End of the Internet As We Know (and Love) It.

  6 Responses to “Warning – The End of the Internet As We Know (and Love) It?”

  1. Excellent piece on a fascinating subject. I read recently — sorry, can’t find the link — that 40% of the TVs currently sold in the US are internet-capable. In fact, I’ve recently been attracted back to TV viewership, after many years of ignoring it, by all the film offerings via internet-based TV services. Heaven knows what that’s doing to my data consumption. But I’m pretty sure my provider will let me know before long.

  2. You touch on a good point, which I will be following up on by reviewing the Netflix streaming video service. Look for this in a few days time. 🙂

  3. Unlimited free internet? Maybe in the US, but not in the rest of the world. In dial-up days it was hours and then briefly, “unlimited”, but in Australia, Europe, the Far East (the places I know) we have been paying for data download and/or speed limitation for many years, usually nowadays the former.
    Now whether these charges have been grossly excessive or not (ha!) is another question…
    Tony P.

  4. Hi, Tony
    Thanks for this very correct comment, although I’m not sure that all of Europe has metered internet data charges.
    I checked with a friend in the UK who says it is still usually ‘unlimited’ data there – the square quotes due to if you really go wild and crazy, then you might get cut off or your speed limited or invited to upgrade your account or something like that.
    There were probably two main factors in the US/Canada having been primarily unlimited (up until now).
    The first is the AOL marketing and the need to respond/compete.
    The second is that for the longest while – maybe even now – the bulk of the internet traffic in the US (or, if you prefer, US/Canada) stays within its borders. The significance of this is that it is only when you start going internationally, and via undersea cables, that you start to hit severe capacity constraints.
    Compare the internet traffic patterns in the US with those of eg Australia (or my home country of NZ for an even more extreme example). NZ in particular had, for many years in the 1990s and early 2000s, been continually on the back foot of having insufficient cable/data bandwidth to off-shore internet sites, causing congestion, data slow down, and of course requiring a metered approach to internet usage locally.

  5. Thought provoking. But I think it only fair for internet charges to be based on amount of usage. Probabaly a lower cost per GB as you usage rises – sort of like buying minutes on the old Cell phone plans.
    The problem with unlimited is higher overall usage reduces the speed for each user. And, I would bet, 90% of usage is by 10% of the users.
    I say let the market decide.
    And I doubt if the prices will rise like your example. Better technology will allow much higher data rates without corresponding higher costs. (Look at your cost per megabyte now vs. in 2000 – much lower.)
    Few services we “know, love, and rely on” are really essential, unless watching videos/movies/etc. are critical to you. I think we all managed without them 15 years ago.

  6. Hi, Mike
    I too hope that cost per GB will reduce over time. And I’m not saying it unfair to pay on a usage basis, I am merely wondering/worrying what the overall cost implications will be for us all.
    For example, if I have to pay a penny or thereabouts each time I receive or send and email, that will be a constraint.
    And essential internet services? That’s more a grey scale than black and white, of course. But I’d hate to lose access to, eg, real-time traffic reports. Or weather conditions and forecasts. Or the internet radio that enables me to listen to my favorite radio station, located in London. And so on through a laundry list of other applications of greater or lesser interest.
    Yes, we all lived without these things 15 years ago, and 50 years ago, and 150 years ago too. But I don’t think either of us are seeking a return back to ‘the good old days’!
    🙂

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