Paying for the Internet

So I see on CNN.com that Bill Gates is proposing we pay for “Stamps” to send email. This got me thinking about a article that I read a while back in PC Magazine. See, I think that we should pay for our internet usage by the bandwidth we use. Much the same way we pay for electricity or natural gas. I don’t know about the logistics of doing this, but it seems that it could be done, and in doing so would address a lot of issues. Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of a flat fee for all the internet I can use. But, I don’t think it’s really working.

I don’t think that email stamps are the answer, in fact I see them as a hurdle to progress and efficiency. It seems to me that internet service should be metered and users should pay for the amount of service they use, instead of paying an arbitrary and often unfair flat fee. If metering were universally implemented, most of the problems with the Internet would be resolved.

Here’s some of the advantages that I see for pay-by-use internet. It’s a fair method of charging for service, metered pay plans would reduce spam, improve performance, cut back on denial-of-service attacks, and reduce the use of file-sharing programs (i.e. Kazaa, LimeWire, eDonkey, etc…). Metering would also reduce the amount of trivial downloading done on the internet and reduce the amount of needless 24-hour streaming of media. Equitable pricing mechanisms can account for streaming sessions versus e-mail and surfing. As an added benefit, because of metering there would be an improvement in behavior on the web. Friends, family, and colleagues would be far less likely to send us every cute/funny thing that they’ve seen on the net if they were forced to be more judicious in using the internet.

To make this work we need to ensure that the average user pays less, not more, for a web connection. Only the heaviest users would then have to pay more than what they are paying now. A lower cost for the average household would speed the propogation of the internet accross the country. Let’s get broadband internet in every home in the country. The ISPs can make their money upselling additional services to their basic service. Why should we have to pay for someone else’s connection. I propose that we only pay for what we use.