Internet Providers want to Meter Usage (Apr. 17, 2009) — Customers who like to stream movies, TV shows may pay with extra fees.

internet-meterSubscribers may have to pay extra fees for use of high-speed Internet based on how much material they download, if Internet service providers’ current experiments succeeded.

This is the trials with metered access, rather than the traditional monthly flat fee for unlimited connection time, offer enough bandwidth that they won’t affect many consumers.

More and more television programming and movies are available online, through sites including Hulu, Netflix Watch Instantly, YouTube and’s Video on Demand. A high-definition movie consumes about 7GB of bandwidth. But as more people use the Internet to watch TV and stream movies, they could bump up against the metered rates’ caps, paying expensive over-use fees. Watching a movie may then require paying two fees: one for the movie, another to the cable company.

Time Warner, the nation’s third-largest Internet service provider, in its five experimental markets is offering 5 gigabytes of downloaded Internet content for $29.95 per month. That translates to 15 hours of viewing standard-definition video, or 350,000 e-mails, or 170 hours of online gaming, or some combination of those activities, according to the company.

In addition to compelling consumers to monitor their Internet usage, metering could have broad societal effects, including disenfranchising the poor, retarding network growth and discouraging innovation, some experts say.

“Our use of bandwidth is growing smoothly every year, with more people using more all the time,” said David Isenberg, a Cos Cob, Conn.-based independent telecom analyst. “One of the main nutrients on the Internet is low price. If you start stomping on that or putting in the wrong kind of price signals, my fear is you will inhibit all kinds of innovation.”

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