Saturday, June 14, 2008

8 Reasons Web Connections Should Be Metered

While the exact mechanisms for metering are not yet developed, there's no way that the current all-you-can-eat model can continue much longer. It's stupid, and it contributes to complex problems we do not need.

First, let's establish that your monthly cost for using the Web--if you are a typical user--should not change at all. By metering the Web, I do not mean gouging the customer. I mean charging per the amount of activity. The Internet is a resource, like water and electricity, and should be metered in much the same way.

PC Magazine link

I like Reason #5 best of all: Spammers pay more for junking up the Web. Spammers are said to clog up about half to 75% of e-mail and much of overall Web traffic. They should pay! Metered Internest use would eliminate spam right away.

HT: Tom McMahon


At 6/14/2008 3:55 PM, Blogger rufus said...

Yep, everybody's getting rich'ern Croesis (sp?) Time to raise the prices.

They'll lose me, though.

At 6/14/2008 3:56 PM, Blogger rufus said...

"Croesus;" I knew that wuz wrong.

At 6/14/2008 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds good to me. Metering the web will tend to lower peoples use of it freeing up bandwidth for me.

Metering the web will create a whole new industry around securing internet connections too. Just think about all those people on wireless networks that are so easy to hack into or that don't even require hacking because they have no security. If their service was metered they would either ditch the wireless connections or have to come out with new standards for wireless security thus stimulating the economy.

Metering the web will make it easier to track users. It is like a form of surveillance without the need for any court orders. We might thwart a terrorist attack by closely monitoring what people do on the web.

Metering the web will lead to implementing smart network software, hardware and compression techniques that will create another Internet like network in competition with the regular (already obsolete)web that the rocket scientists want to meter.

Metering the web also tends to stall the widespread discovery that the current Internet infrastructure is not capable of handling the levels of traffic that will be experienced in a couple or few years. That's right folks we are SOL in the USA.

So I'm all in favor of metering.

At 6/14/2008 5:08 PM, Anonymous E. Harokopos said...

"Metered Interne[s]t use would eliminate spam right away."

Why? Postage cost never stopped junk mail.

There will be less spam but not eliminated. Thus, spam filters and protection will still be needed. Since all that is volume independent, it makes more sense to imporve anti-spam technology, make lawtougher, than to put meters.

"Eliminate" is a strw man. The correct word is reduce, which is not any good.

At 6/14/2008 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This makes about as much sense as metering cable TV, which of course no one would ever suggest. Beware specious reasoning: internet is not a utility like water or gas, and the US offers piss poor performance standards relative to many other industrialized nations. Not only should internet NOT be metered, it should be a great deal cheaper than current rates.

At 6/14/2008 7:08 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Metering the web?!?!


Did people forget one of the basic reasons the net is set up the way it is?

Apparently John Dvorak did...

If hackers are a problem now, wait until someone or some outfit tries to muzzle them...


At 6/14/2008 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It isn't going to be metered.

We may see soft-caps put in place so that the ISPs can terminate or throttle bandwidth hogs that affect the service of other users.

At 6/14/2008 10:19 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

Also posted on PC Mag forums:
>1. Elimination of bandwidth caps, restrictions, and throttling. People make agreements with ISPs that state that they have limits on usage and might be capped if they go over.

What planet of the back-asswards ISP do you associate with, that this seems to apply? This crap hasn't applied in any sense that matters since people switched to broadband, back in the early 2000s. neither of the 2 broadband carriers I've dealt with have ever had any cap on usage that was even vaguely likely for anyone to rationally approach as an individual user. And if you're a business user, then you ought to be dealing with a business ISP anyway.

> 2. Promotion of higher speeds.

See the first sentence of "1" again. I got news: Your back-asswards analog connection is a hardware limitation.
My broadband connection is double what it was 2 years ago, without me paying one dime more.
It is already as fast as I need. The servers on the other end, along with my CPU lagging behind ridiculously complex webpages operating on overfat browsers, are usually the drag, if there is one.
And yes, I do a lot of downloading, too. My current connection, btw, is about 6x what a business office with 50 users had in 2001, a "fractional T1".

> 3. Moderate users would pay less than they pay now.

No they wouldn't. "Moderate users" are most of the current crop. The price competition is already adequate to force the prices down to the bone on that. It's one reason the ISPs have aggregated -- there's not enough profit in small operations to justify the work involved.

John Dvorak USED to understand market forces. Nowadays, it's "Huh?" -- a man in search of a clue.

> 4. Download junkies would pay for their habit.

As would anyone looking to promote their own content.
Independent musicians? Too bad, so sad.
Roll-your-own websites? Ooops, a casualty. Sorry, but "sometimes these things happen"
Craig's List? No more of that, it's gotta pay for itself, you inverse junkie!!
Wikipedia? Ditto. Fees, fees, the musical fruit, the more you pay the more you toot.
Free search engines? Ditto. If you think Google is going to pay for every dime going through THEIR servers with pure advertising revenue (esp. when people have to pay MORE to receive it!!) you're imagining things.

It goes both ways. There's a lot of free stuff which would most certainly NOT be free if it were "pay as you go".

> 5. Spammers pay more for junking up the Web.

True. But there are other, much better ways of dealing with this. Metering the flow from point-a to point-b upwards throughout the heirarchy would do a much better job, since it would cause the providers at each level to monitor those users placing an undue burden on the system. Everyone pays a flat fee for connection to the system at each level (generally paid for through the charges below to the users). If there is an imbalance in the flow up or down through your node, they get proportionally charged. This can be a simple packet counter, it need not do anything with packet analysis. A ridiculously cheap infrastructure item to add. This way, only those producing an IMBALANCE get charged more, and exceptions can be made for known legitimate sources, like Wiki, Google, etc. This way, only those unexpected *sources* need be checked, and the service providers have their own reasons for doing so (those extra imbalance fees). And any ISP can ignore and balance those expenses if they choose. This avoids the metering issues which otherwise exist -- the overall loss of anonymity, the need for packet snooping, and the requirement that all packet information cannot be encrypted for anonymity purposes, and the elimination of legitimate anonymous providers.

"Only criminals need such" --- bulls***. Whistle blowers, throughout history, needed it too. Anonymity has been defended for centuries in US courts (and yes, I'm aware that the internet is international -- I'm saying if you want to see the arguments for it, look up that history).

I've been dealing with computers for four decades now. The above system, using imbalances to drive payment rather than directed metering, is far, far more flexible, less onerous, and less invasive than direct metering. It's far from a complete idea, but it's workable and more suitable to the nature of the internet.

> 6. Elimination of the net neutrality issues.

You GOTTA be kidding me. This will open up a whole HOST of other issues, requiring the USER to verify *content* on a much higher level than currently rationally allowed. I can see how, with no anonymity, they can pass laws requiring anything posted on the internet be vetted for copyright -- to an extent where everyone has to fill out a Form X12-4531-zz-1, "Affirmation of copyright confirmation" for everything they post on the internet. This includes those pictures of you and gramma on vacation in Aruba. Sure -- people will IGNORE such time-wasting idiocy at the individual level, which will just add one more place where some ASSwipe bureaucrat can give you a mass of endless legal crap for annoying them on something utterly unrelated to your pictures of gramma.

This action would single-handedly put massive power into the hands of the NetCops, too. Give me more police powers! As the phrase goes:
Better Police, for a Better Police State.

Don't even ASK what totalitarian states like China or most of the Islamic states could do with this.

> 7. Development of IPTV mechanisms.

Yeah, cause THAT isn't developing on its own without such stupidity.

> 8. Energy savings (aka "green"). If you're paying by the bit, you'll want to turn off your machine and Web connection at night, right? I sure will.

In case YOU didn't notice it with your dial-up ISP, MOST of us, upon consderation, will readily grasp that this is a step BACKWARDS.
Instantaneous access to the internet is a DESIRABLE thing.


This idea is so amazingly, blatantly wrongheaded it's just not funny.

We are developing an IP & Services Economy. "Communications" is a critical part of that. Unimpeded flow of information is central to the whole process. "Pay as you go", as even a moment's rational thought would show you, is a major impediment.

Our phone system has been trending for four decades towards a one-monthly-price for nation-wide communications. I have no doubt that it may well shift slowly to the same for worldwide comm. Should THAT go back to individual metering, too?

Anyone else here want to pay US$1 per minute (in 1965 dollars!!) for a phone call to gramma? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

What happened, John? Back in the 80s, your columns used to make sense all the time. They used to be far and away *THE* most sensible part of PC Mag.
Did you get Alzheimer's since then?
Suffer severe head trauma?

The Law of Unintended Consequences is sure to apply here. You need to MASSIVELY think of the **downsides** to this whole notion.


At 6/14/2008 10:23 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...


Oh, and BTW -- if you have the power to meter, you have the power to CENSOR.


At 6/15/2008 10:03 AM, Blogger Gregory said...

People are not thinking of this right. You are forgetting that this is merely the distinction between free and practically free. We have experience with the cell phone companies which have already gone to a metered scheme. And it is nothing like has been described here.

You pay your flat monthly fee, I currently pay $15, and I can download 5 gigabyte a month with no additional charge. From there I pay $1 for ever additional gigabyte I use.

Now, this is over a wireless cell-phone network and I must share it with the whole city, so bandwidth is priced very high.

Your at-home internet connection is only shared with the people on your block, so we should expect to see pricing strategies which maximize the avaiable space, such as this:
$29.95 a month for up to 100 gigabytes and then $1 for every 10 gigabytes above that. At this plan, for 95% of consumers their connections remains all-you-can eat, since all they can eat does not approach 100GB a month.

But me, a heavy downloader, at that price I would be paying approximately what I pay now, $40 a month.

And the guy down the street trying to host his own webpage viewed by the whole planet will single handedly cover the cost of the network.

At 6/15/2008 10:20 AM, Blogger Gregory said...

I just did the math and my current internet connection is priced thusly:
$39.95 a month and my downloading is only limited by my bandwidth to 1.2 terrabytes (1,249 gigabytes) a month. Is it sensible to charge two people exactly the same when one is trying to download 100 times more than the other?

At 6/15/2008 11:23 AM, Anonymous The Masked Millionaire said...

The internet already cost too mcuh. Compare the price you pay to what the average person in other industrialized countries pay.

Meter the web?

Why not meter the air we breath?

Do people ever get tired of putting restrictions on things?

At 6/15/2008 10:21 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Is it sensible to charge two people exactly the same when one is trying to download 100 times more than the other?

You are assuming that the overall overhead costs (amortizing the network as-is, tracking and billing customers, advertising to add new customers) are smaller than the actual operating costs.

This is woefully inaccurate.

In reality, the cost of creating the network in the first place is the expensive thing. Actually running the network isn't anywhere near as expensive -- This is one if the chief manners in which the IP and Service economy is radically different from traditional (Ag, Industrial) economies. The cost of entry is typically much, much higher than the actual costs of operation in many cases for the IP&SE.

It costs a lot more to make that first copy of the software than it does to make 10,000 more (support is an additional cost, but need not be bundled/tied to the entry price, rewarding those who are capable of self-sufficiency).

Getting your business up and running with a good business model and a good client base is usually a lot more expensive than the month-to-month operating cost for a service company. Overhead can often be reduced and eliminated entirely (people work out of their homes, and either telecommute or take assignments by phone, going directly to the assignment and never "come into the office", hence a much smaller infrastructure model can be implemented, perhaps only a secretary and a meeting place).

If the network itself is actually running to capacity from bandwidth usage, then caps are applied, but even most heavy users aren't driving the main load on existing capacity -- spammers are far and away the only taxing load on the net, at up to 75% of all traffic. Heavy users and downloaders are insignificant compared to them.

This is a classic Tragedy of the Commons problem. A solution needs to be found, but I don't believe direct metering is the solution when the problem is a tiny fraction of 1% of the users. That's throwing out the baby with the bathwater, just because the sink needs cleaning.

It is the very casual usability of the internet which has made it such an astonishing success. Making people *think* ("Do I want to spend money for this?") about using it will destroy a lot of its power and functionality.

At 6/16/2008 7:34 AM, Blogger Gregory said...

OBloodyHell, but when metering would only affect that 1% that you admit are causing the problem then how is it not a perfect solution? Those that are not causing the problem are unaffected, those that are are. Bravo, a more perfect solution to any problem I have never heard of: there are no externalities beyond slightly cheaper internet for the rest of us.

At 6/16/2008 5:51 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> OBloodyHell, but when metering would only affect that 1% that you admit are causing the problem then how is it not a perfect solution?

As I note in the more recent blog entry, the fact of the matter is that that 1% (the spammers) won't even notice this crap.

1) Thinking more about it, probably no, they wouldn't pay more.

I can't say I'm up on the exact process of spamming, but presumably they send out one mail packet with a hundred or more destinations. This has limited effect on localized bandwidth usage, but, once it hits the trunk, it explodes off into a hundred different destinations.

I'm sure spammers use more BW, but I doubt if it's anywhere in proportion to the end-usage, which is the part clogging up servers etc.

So this doesn't even TACKLE the real issue -- it just shunts the payment problem down on to the people who least care about it, are least able to do anything to prevent it, and least want the spam.

How does THAT make sense?

2) I point out "4" above, which is a massive downside. EVERYTHING free on the nets would disappear. Utterly. I have yet to see a single comment in dispute of this.

Free internet at McD's? Forget about it. Places offering free internet connections would shrivel up like a rose bush planted in the Atacama. These businesses pay a single fixed business price to offer access. If they had to worry about paying for additional usage, they'd drop it like a hot potatoe.

3) It does massively damage the convenience of the Net, which is to make its own presence ubiquitous and unthinking.

4) It clearly runs counter to the main trend of telecommunications, which is "one price fits all". There is a reason for this trend. In an IP&SE, the free and unrestricted flow of information is one of the key ways how wealth gets generated. Anything which interferes with that (including the current idiotic IP laws) creates problems (hence piracy)

Are YOU going to listen to some song by an artist that you've never heard of if you have to pay EXTRA for the "privelege"? Or are you going to stick to those artists you know you like?

Are YOU going to download an ep of a new show you don't know anything about, or are you going to stick to watching shows you know you like?

Are you going to rent some potential piece of junk from NetFlix, or are you going to stick to just movies you know are good? If so, why would you want an unlimited Netflix plan? You can probably identify the five or so movies you're willing to actually PAY extra for over the next 3-4 months.

Right, Duh, and QED. Metering is a negative, not a positive move. It clearly and self-evidently discourages additional usage.

5) And something I haven't discussed is the nascent WebAp industry -- the idea being that you don't actually have a lot of software on your machine, but just access anything you need over the web. If you have to pay for each byte you download, what happens to that?

6) Then there's the "your stuff, everywhere" concept, using slingboxes and even off-site storage. What happens to THAT when everywhere you go, you have to pay extra for access to it? Are YOU going to do this?

It's just a flat out stupid idea. The people who support this are only seeing one narrow aspect of what it tackles and not even TRYING to spot the sheer mass of things it just utterly screws up.


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