When you think about it, paying for what you use in the world is and has been pretty commonplace; you fill your car up with gas and you pay a price per gallon, hook your home up for natural gas service, propane, or oil, and you pay by the gallon or liter, depending on how warm you keep it at home. Electricity has always been metered, and for years, telephone service was metered in one fashion or another, either based on how many calls you made, or by (long) distance usage. But for the internet world, the concept of metering for usage is relatively new. Instead the focus up until now has been based almost exclusively on speed.
In fact, most home internet providers, (except for Verizon and AT&T), still spend most of their time advertising how fast their service is. And focusing on speed makes it seem to be the only measure that separates one internet service from another. (I think there are far more important measures, but I’ll save that for another blog.) “The faster the better” has been the standard for years. We used to advertise speeds that were 10 times faster than dial-up (back when folks had dial-up connections), then 50 times faster than dial-up, and now it’s 5 Mbps (megabits of data per second) or 10 Mbps or 50 Mbps, and some networks are even faster. But of course, that’s only a measurement of how fast you get the data, not what you actually do with it.
What we actually do with internet data has changed dramatically over the years. For a long time in days of old, it was all about how fast you could splash up a web page; how fast does CNN pop up, or Fox News? Does it scroll up slowly, or does it pop onto the screen? That was really the measure of one internet service over another. No more. We can all pop up pretty color screens. The test now is can you watch a high-definition movie on Vudu, Netflix, or HBO? Can you stream your favorite news site? Can you engage in flawless, no-buffer, no-jitter video chats with all of your friends or business associates? Can you attend video or web conferencing without buffering? Can you earn your college degree online?
The facts are fascinating. In 2001, an average home internet customer almost exclusively used dial-up services. Those who might have had a high-speed data connection, say 1.5 Mbps – considered superfast in 2000 – used far less than 1 gigabyte of data per month. In 2007, that average number grew to around 7 gigabytes of data per month, and by then most folks had DSL or a cable modem at home. Today, SpeedConnect’s average customer uses 50 gigabytes per month, and it’s growing fast. Streaming just one standard definition, two hour movie consumes 3-plus gigabytes of data, as does a few hours of online gaming.
We now expect our internet services to stream video and audio to us flawlessly, without delay or buffering. That is the new benchmark. And to do that requires a network that is not only very fast – that’s the first test – but one that is also very deep, robust and wide. We want a network that can handle many simultaneous connections for all of its users, while offering the same performance and the same speed. That’s a lot to do, and has put a huge challenge on internet service providers throughout the world.
Most internet consumers today are looking at internet service plans that measure not only speed, but also plans that match how they actually use their internet service with the needs of their budget. For example, if you don’t stream videos, you don’t do online gaming, you don’t do home or business video conferencing, and maybe you are just using it to check the news and send some emails back and forth to the kids, then you really don’t use much data. You shouldn’t pay for a large data plan if you don’t use it much.
On the other hand, if you’re like me and have a large family at home and everybody’s constantly on their laptops and their tablets, and there’s a movie on Netflix almost every night or they’re playing ‘Call of Duty,’ that’s a very different proposition, and for that, you would expect to pay more.
So, data usage plans, or “consumption based billing,” come down to a way to meter the amount of data that your draw down from the various providers that you’re working with, whether it be the website that serves up movies like Netflix, or the video conferencing, or games, and then charge accordingly.
Clearly Verizon and other mobile carriers have taught us all to be nervous about data charges. A mobile cell phone in hot-spot mode over a weekend of excess internet time and one could face up to $300.00 in over-plan data charges.
At SpeedConnect, we focus on our individual customers to offer good matches for what for folks are looking for. For example, most of our customers choose our standard plans which are sold at very low cost and come with 100 gigabytes of data. Within a cap – so there are no overage charges – we can make the monthly charge for those plans a little over a dollar a day. Yet for others, say larger families, we offer unlimited data plans so they never think about how much data they’re using and they never have to worry.
As we’ve done for gas, electricity, phone service and other standard necessities, pay-for-usage makes sense because it’s fair for all of us. And the internet has certainly become a necessity for almost all of us!