Symphonious

Living in a state of accord.

Unmetered Internet Is Not A Civil Right

Kevin Gamble echoes an increasingly common theme at the moment, complaining that some US ISPs are trialling metered internet plans instead of unlimited data:

This is serious stuff. This is an both an economic and freedom issue. Changing the way the Internet works means people will be less likely to share and to try innovative things. If you don't think this will impact the quality of your Internet experience you are dead wrong. It will make a massive difference in changing people's online behavior.

Here’s the thing though – metered internet plans are not a new idea. They’re not even unusual, they’re just a way of life for a huge number of people, like say pretty much anyone in Australia. You don’t have a civil right to unmetered internet access any more than you do to unmetered electricity.

In fact, the comparison to electricity is a particularly apt one given how much people are talking about the commoditization of commuting and internet access these days. As things become more of a commodity pricing plans tend to get better at charging people for what they use instead of subsidizing the cost across all users. That’s what the US internet companies are doing now. If they charge people for what they actually use, they can offer cheaper internet access to the light users and still cover the costs of heavy users. Now, I love my unlimited data plan here in the UK but I realize that my heavy use is being subsidized by lighter users.

Will this affect innovation on the internet? Nope. People will pay for the level of internet access they need or want and be happy with it, just like people pay for the amount of electricity they need to run their computer and don’t worry about it. If unlimited internet access really is demanded by a large number of people (who aren’t just heavy users wanting their usage subsidized) then there will be a market opportunity to provide that so vote with your feet. I suspect you’ll find the vast majority of users will quite enjoy having cheaper, faster internet though and it will be the heavy users that go off in search of alternatives.

This is mostly clueless corporate types changing the very dynamics which have made the Internet work.

Nope, this is just economics at work. The internet will keep ticking along quite happily despite the temporary gnashing of teeth that geeks will go through.