Buy your bandwidth by the pound


As the internet age evolves, companies in the delivery chain are scrambling to find the right economic model to Googlize their fortunes. The latest -- bandwidth. In the era of streaming video and video downloads, the seemingly inexhaustible supply of bandwidth (the pipe through which your digital content flows) could become saturated.

According to a leaked Time Warner Cable memo (as reported on BroadbandReports), the company will soon begin testing billing users for the total amount of internet access they use per month, rather than a flat fee. By putting internet access on the same volume-charge footing as cell phone minutes, cubic feet of natural gas, or gallons of water, the company apparently hopes to pick the pockets of heavy users of services such as file sharing and on-line gaming.

This could be good news for some customers for a couple of reasons. First, it will allow us to more easily compare service costs between vendors. Second, it could point out choking points in internet delivery; for example, my home broadband slows considerably as soon as school lets out for the day. Why should I pay as much for an overburdened cable spur as one that allows me to run full bore all day?

Commodified internet access is inevitable, and no further away than the completion of a broad-reaching Wi-Max or similar environment. Time Warner Cable's experiment in selling internet by the pound is a logical step in that direction.