+Tim Bray has the idea (https://plus.google.com/107606703558161507946/posts/Th1tWZg41Fb) that paying a per-MB rate for your communication is much better than fixed prices. I'm surprised he, as a Google employee, comes up with this as it would absolutely kill Googles business model.

He says that with a low enough price people will be fine with it. But the thing is, the price doesn't matter: as soon as you have a meter ticking (and per-MB is so small a unit it is effectively metered) we are forced into a cost-benefit mode of thought. We start weighing the pros and cons of all we do in terms of the amount we consume.

Google thrives by advertising, basically; by injecting itself — in a polite, considerate manner, it has to be said — into anything and everything we do while online. But metered pricing gives us great incentive not to do things online if and when off-line options are readily available.


* First, this will give people great incentive to use ad-blockers and content blockers of all kinds. A minority of people already use them to avoid the inconvenience of flashing ads. But tell people they can save real money by simply adding a plug-in or small app and you'll see adoption skyrocket.

My mobile data use is probably more ads than anything else. Simply blocking them — or better, add a local proxy that impersonates the ad-network servers — would save me a bundle of money under Tims suggestion.

At the minimum, there would have to be a clear, transparent deal that any data transfer to and from ad networks would be paid in full by the advertisers — yes, it'd mean advertisers would have to start paying directly for the bandwidth they use, and Google is the largest advertiser of them all.


* Online, or "cloud" solutions would be a bad idea. Google Docs isn't really better than a local word processor, and when I know that every keystroke and every screen update costs me money I have every reason to edit my stuff locally. Instead of using Gmail directly I'd prefer to download the mail to my local client. Use Calendar and Google Reader for syncing between devices but never visit the actual online app. All of which incidentally would strangle Google's ability to make money off me using their services.

I would stop using cloud-based sync services such as Ubuntu One or Dropbox in favour of local sync, and no longer post data heavy stuff like pictures to multiple places. Turning off automated updates and not idle in G+ and similar places is another given.


* Oh, he suggests that networks pay app developers to use more bandwidth so customers pay more. I suspect that would already be seen as fraud in many jurisdictions and there'd be some nice, juicy consumer protection lawsuits waiting for anybody trying that sort of thing.


The problem is metered billing. People hate it. Don't go there. Instead, make it pre-paid in large increments and charge overage with time, not money.

The difference is psychological. You know when people want to save money on petrol, and they end up filling up just a little at the station each time instead of filling up the tank? At first sight it makes no sense; all you do is go more often to the station which would increase your petrol use. But it works; people are deliberately manipulating their own behaviour this way. With small, frequent fillings that remind you of the cost you push yourself into "metered mode" and watch how much you drive. The end result is less driving and saved money.


So, one variant is that you pay for a set amount of data per month, in Gigabyte increments, say. And sure, make each following Gb cheaper than the one before if you want. If you go over you don't get hit by some extra charge. Instead, your data rate drops to some low rate like 50-100kb/s — enough for checking email and light web surfing but nothing more. If you often end up hitting the ceiling you know it's time to add another Gb or two to your plan.

A second variant would be similar: You buy Gb of data, period. If you buy, say, 5Gb of data then you can use it as fast or as slow you want. Spend it in a week or in a month or in a year; it doesn't matter. Again, once you go over you can still (barely) communicate but you know it's time to recharge your account.


In both cases you are pre-paid. That removes the sense of having to watch every byte. And when you know you won't be hit with extra charges just because you hit the ceiling you are much more likely to use it all — and to buy more from the provider once you do.
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