Not since the early days of dial-up Internet have we had to worry about how much we use our Internet access, but today Internet service providers are searching for a way to make the folks who use the most bandwidth either pay up or get out!

As I wrote on InternetEvolution recently, it’s time we start treating the Internet like every other utility.

Using the utility model, an ISP could charge for the maximum bit rate available (many already offer several maximum bit rates at graduated prices), then a reasonable price for each gigabyte used. To simplify the user experience and reduce concern about overages, it makes sense to include a generous amount of leeway with the service — say, 200 Gbytes — but it will be essential to give the user a way to monitor how it’s consumed.

Ideally, enough bandwidth and storage would be included with the basic plan to more than satisfy the typical user, including allowance for downloading a reasonable amount of video and audio. (For reference, movies available on iTunes tend to run just a bit over 1 Gbyte.) With packages in the hundreds of Gbytes, the average user’s Internet experience and usage pattern is unlikely to be affected at all. But customers should not hesitate to stay up to date on their system updates and virus software.

Check out the full article and feel free to comment on Internet Evolution or here and let me know what you think!

Update: As Gary points out in a comment below, this is a very USA-centric view. I know internet rates and billing policies vary quite a bit around the world. Please leave a comment if your area already has bandwidth restrictions and let us know how it’s working out!