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Internet metering is a method of billing for Internet service. It is designed to increase costs for the customers who use the largest amount of bandwidth. Most Internet metering plans are built around the idea of bandwidth caps, with penalty fees for those that exceed them. There are also approaches to metering based on hourly usage charges, but these are generally uncommon. Many companies have suggested Internet metering as a way to curb overuse of bandwidth by a small group of customers who are power-users.
Many groups are opposed to Internet metering because they think it will limit the potential future growth of the Internet. Video content requires a very large amount of bandwidth, and many people use the Internet as a way to watch television shows or movies. Bandwidth metering might have the potential to slow down eventual growth in this area. Many consumer watchdog groups and media companies have fought against it for this reason.
Some experts say that the service providers are simply using this as an excuse to increase profits. They suggest that increasing Internet bandwidth is relatively inexpensive for the companies, and they believe the price increases are primarily designed to compensate for money lost in other areas like telephone usage. The service providers deny these allegations, and they suggest that an eventual move towards Internet metering will be required to handle future increases in usage volume.
During the time when the Internet was just beginning to become mainstream, bandwidth metering was generally the most common way of billing for service. Many companies during that time relied on an hourly rate model. Some experts feel that this approach had a stifling effect on the growth of the Internet, and there was a significant increase in net usage after companies started offering unlimited use plans. Consumers have been resistant to the idea of any kind of metering plan, and there have even been attempts to make these plans illegal. Some experts feel that any attempt to curb Internet usage could eventually lead to unforeseen economic consequences, and lawmakers have generally been sympathetic to this view.
Some companies have chosen to curb usage instead of increasing prices. Most plans that work this way are designed to target the customers who use the largest levels of bandwidth. One common version of this approach has been to temporarily lower the bandwidth of these users during the busy parts of the day.