Metered Internet: The Death of Web Work?

Our parent blog GigaOM is doing good work covering the coming rise of metered internet plans for consumers. If you haven’t followed the story, it’s worth catching up on: depending on how this shakes out over the next few years, many web workers could find their careers pinched or shut down entirely by rising costs.

The basic news is simple: large carriers like AT&T and Time Warner want to shut down the “all you can eat” monthly internet pricing for your DSL or other high-speed connection, and change over to tiered usage-based pricing. Under a tiered model, you pay a fixed monthly cost for a fixed amount of bandwidth, and then overage charges based on the amount of data you consume above that level. One recent Time Warner promotion, for example, socks you with $1 per gigabyte if you go over a 20GB/month cap.

The wedge that the telecommunications companies are using to move to this model is that video bandwidth is clogging the internet – though that hardly explains why they need 1500% markups over cost for the overages. It seems likely that if this model moves forward, the providers will be making more money – and that money will come out of our pockets.

What does this mean for telecommuters and other web workers? If the model spreads, nothing good. Some people in traditional telecommuting jobs will have the extra costs picked up by their employers, which will inevitably impact salary and benefits. Those of us who are independent will be faced with rising costs for telecommunications. 20GB may sounds like a lot to the average person, but if you’re heavily involved in videoconferencing, for example, it’s not going to stretch very far.

The ultimate effect of these moves may be to make telecommuting a less attractive option from an economic point of view. In a world where gas prices are rising and the economy is suffering, that’s just plain bad news.

Are you taking any steps to keep your connectivity costs under control?

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