It Could Happen: Your Cable Bill Could Be Based on How Much TV You Watch

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AT&T’s new plans for the iPhone and the iPad, which involve getting rid of unlimited use plans, may have opened the door to the possibility of new pay-TV plans, in which cable bills could also be “usage-based.”

The WSJ says:

The move away from unlimited Internet-data plans by the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier after Verizon Wireless could push more customers to watch videos and stream music through their wireline-broadband connection at home—an area dominated by cable operators—rather than through wireless cellular networks.

In addition, even though wireline networks don’t suffer from the congestion issues that have plagued wireless carriers, AT&T’s move may prompt cable operators to revisit usage-based pricing as online video grows and broadband replaces TV service as the industry’s most essential product for U.S. consumers.

The cable industry’s efforts on usage-based pricing have so far been forestalled by public criticism from lawmakers and consumer groups, but if the wireless industry succeeds in establishing the model, that could set a precedent for wireline operators to follow.

Does this mean your cable or “triple-play” bill will go up? Or down? It’s way too early to tell, seeing as no providers have really given this sort of billing plan a real try. As things stand, you pay a flat amount no matter how much TV you watch. In theory, however, if things change to a usage-based system, your bill should decrease if you don’t use the service all that much. Could such a shift cause people to cut back on the TV habit? It’d be shocking if it did. Maybe a monetary incentive will do what no amount of moms talking about how TV will rot your brain ever could.

The flip side is that your bill could skyrocket if you’re a card-carrying couch potato boob tube sort of person, in the same way that “heavy users” of the iPhone, also known as “data pigs,” are bound to pay more in the wake of AT&T’s changes.

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