LAS VEGAS--A switch from flat-rate to usage-based pricing will be required
to sustain the rapid growth of the Internet, a bandwidth expert told Comdex
Speaking at a seminar dubbed "Next Generation Internets," John Wheeler,
manager at Andersen Consulting, said the
increased use of pictures and sound only makes matters worse, because it
gobbles up more bandwidth and causes users to stay online longer. This makes the
flat-rate pricing model potentially less economical.
"The current fixed-rate pricing scheme cannot sustain the growth and
performance demands of the Internet," Wheeler said. His comments echo a
growing sentiment in the ISP industry.
Many telcos and ISPs are lobbying for a switch to usage-based pricing--more akin to the way phone charges are calculated--to help pay for network
upgrades. But competition and, to some extent, fear that any change would
dampen demand, is keeping the "all you can eat" pricing alive, at least for
Wheeler said cracks are starting to appear in the current pricing model,
however. Some ISPs monitor their customers' sites and average the bandwidth
used in 15-minute increments, while others measure usage in five-minute
increments and charge for the highest level of service, he said.
Wheeler also outlined other growing concerns about the Net. Among them:
An upgraded infrastructure is needed to support increased traffic.
The projected surge in e-commerce heightens the need. Congestion is occurring at network access points because these
upgrades are falling behind.Quality of service is essential, especially with the rollout of
voice, audio, and video on the Net.
"While the average consumer may tolerate the poor quality found on the
Internet today, business use won't be widespread unless these issues are
resolved," Wheeler said.
He remained optimistic, however, that existing infrastructure and quality
problems will be alleviated with new technologies such as high-speed frame
relay and gigabit routers, as well as Internet protocols.
Wheeler's comments underscore a mounting concern about the Net's ability to
handle increased traffic loads. Some analysts worry that new high-speed
access technologies, such as cable modems and DSL, will be hampered by
strained network capacity--kind of like a Ferrari stuck on a two-lane