Movies by the Byte


Movies by the Byte

You may soon pay more so Web providers can curb Internet hogs.

Do you sometimes go over the allotted minutes on your cell-phone plan and have to pay overcharges at the end of the month? Someday we may pay extra if we download too much from the Internet.

Time Warner Cable will soon test a new plan in Beaumont, Tex., that charges subscribers by the gigabyte if they download more than their monthly allotment. Time Warner isn't saying yet what those charges will be, but it points to Bell Canada, which charges $7.50 (Canadian) per extra gigabyte.

At that price, downloading one high-definition movie (from 3GB to 4GB) could run you $30 if you're already at the monthly limit. Instead of its current all-you-can-download plan, Time Warner intends to propose a tiered service ranging from 5 gigabytes a month to 40 -- the latter being enough for 10 to 15 movies. Over-limit charges may be on a sliding scale, with customers enrolled in the least-expensive packages paying the highest fees.

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The goal is to address traffic congestion -- and delays for everyone -- on the "information superhighway." Time Warner says that 5% of its customers use as much as 50% of its bandwidth.

Comcast, under fire for slowing connections for customers it deems excessive users, says for now it has no plans to begin usage-based pricing.