Metered Internet Could Work for All

Author: Fred Butzen
Coverage Type: op-ed
Chicago, IL, United States

[Commentary] I agree with Holman Jenkins, Jr. that a metered Internet is a fairer way to provide service ("Federal Department of Netflix, NFLX -0.27% " Business World, June 18).

Information comes in datagrams, which can be counted, just like watts of electricity or cubic feet of natural gas; and it seems only fair that a user pays for the quantity of that resource that he or she consumes. However, it's worth remembering that on any given download, a portion—in some cases, a significant portion—of the downloaded material is not material that the user requested. Everything from spyware and cookies, to advertising, hitch a ride on the user's request, and are downloaded along with the material the user wants. Users may well balk at paying to download the streaming-video commercial that's playing in the corner of the Web page, when all they want to see are the cat pictures.

Yet eliminating or restricting advertising would put a huge hit on most providers' bottom lines. It may well be that arrangements like what Comcast is seeking with Netflix, clumsy as it is, may be the best way to resolve this. Small free providers will continue to benefit from being able to lard up their sites with ads, while subscription services like Netflix, will, in effect, bill their users for a carrier surcharge to cover the cost of the bandwidth they consume. And consumers will continue to enjoy what is, for most, a pretty good deal.


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