Carriers Eye Pay-As-You-Go Internet

In the early years of the Internet, the more time people spent online, the more they paid a provider like AOL for their connection. But as customers have shifted to always-on broadband services, many Web surfers have enjoyed all-you-can-eat Internet for a flat rate.

Some cable and telecommunications providers are trying to turn back the clock and return to usage-based pricing for Internet connections. Carriers including AT&T Inc. (T) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) say they may have to switch amid a surge in Internet traffic as more people go online to watch videos and download movies.

Recent efforts to introduce usage-based, or metered, broadband services have met stiff resistance from consumers. But a new push by the federal government to adopt rules that would force Internet providers to treat all Web traffic equally, no matter how much bandwidth they take up, could give ammunition to the broadband providers that want to change how they charge for Web access, Internet experts and consumer advocates say.

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