What If Every Tweet Cost You A Dollar?

There’s a growing trend towards charging for every byte used on smartphones. The logical next step is charging / capping data usage for your home computers. This means your Netflix subscription might suddenly get a lot more expensive. Heck, every tweet would start costing you more money.

While this is at least a bit of a ways off, it’s an important thing to understand right now. More importantly, how would a shift to web usage-based billing affect education? First, a bit of background from SFGate:

“The days of watching movies on the cheap via the Web may soon be over. Time Warner Cable and U.S. pay-TV companies are on the verge of instituting new fees on Web-access customers who use the most data. … U.S. providers have weighed usage-based plans for years as a way to squeeze more profit from Web access, and to counter slowing growth and rising program costs in the TV business. While customer complaints hampered earlier attempts, pay-TV companies are testing usage caps and price structures that point to the advent of permanent fees. … Cable’s best option is to find ways to profit from the online shift, said [analyst Craig Moffett]. If the companies were to lose all of their video customers, the revenue decline would be more than offset by lower programming fees and set-top box spending. ‘In the end, it will be the best thing that ever happened to the cable industry,’ Moffett said.”

The possibility of usage-based pricing has brought protests from Los Gatos-based Netflix and warnings from Charlie Ergen, chairman of rival Dish Network, which operates the Blockbuster movie-rental business. “That Netflix subscription of $7.99 could go to an extra $20 a month for bit streaming,” Ergen said, making a total monthly subscription “the equivalent of $27.99.”

So does this mean we’re headed back to DVDs and that all streaming services will go under? Of course not. It means that everyone involved in bringing you that Netflix movie or website or Youtube video wants a piece of the action. The real concern here is education, though.

We’re constantly talking about integrating technology into classrooms and finding new ways to incorporate it into education. Heck, that’s all Edudemic is about! So would classrooms suddenly stop adopting iPads or Chromebooks because the bandwidth cost has climbed? I’m not so sure.

The Days of AOL Dial-Up

If bandwidth costs doubled or tripled for an already cash-strapped school district, you can bet your butt the procurement people would think twice before adopting an iPad lab. After all, iPads are made for a streaming world. They’re designed to consume data.

If bandwidth costs rose by tenfold or more, I wouldn’t be surprised to see entire schools remove existing computers from the classroom and only have them in specific locations. It would be metered-out data just like the good ol’ AOL dial-up days. *shudder*

How Would You React?

So this is a dark and gloomy picture I’m painting. What if the web usage-based billing only means an incremental uptick in costs for a school district? Do you think it would have an impact in your classroom? If you were about to get a few iPads for your classroom, would a decision by TimeWarner or Comcast affect your buying decision?

I want to hear from you and get a discussion going on this. Weigh in by leaving a comment below, mentioning @Edudemic on Twitter (I’ll reply!) or leaving your thoughts on our Facebook page.