Flat Fee vs. Pay-per-use

Essay by TraumaCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 1997

download word file, 6 pages 3.3

Most Internet users are either not charged to access information,

or pay a low-cost flat fee. The Information SuperHighway, on the

other hand, will likely be based upon a pay-per-use model. On a

gross level, one might say that the payment model for the Internet

is closer to that of broadcast (or perhaps cable) television while

the model for the Information SuperHighway is likely to be more

like that of pay-per-view T.V.

'Pay-per-use' environments affect user access habits. 'Flat fee'

situations encourage exploration. Users in flat-fee environments

navigate through webs of information and tend to make serendipitous

discoveries. 'Pay-per-use' situations give the public the incentive

to focus their attention on what they know they already want, or to

look for well-known items previously recommended by others. In

'pay-per-use' environments, people tend to follow more traditional

paths of discovery, and seldom explore totally unexpected avenues.

'Pay-per-use' environments discourage browsing. Imagine how a person's

reading habits would change if they had to pay for each article they

looked at in a magazine or newspaper.

Yet many of the most interesting things we learn about or find come

from following unknown routes, bumping into things we weren't looking

for. (Indeed, Thomas Kuhn makes the claim that, even in the hard

sciences, real breakthroughs and interesting discoveries only come

from following these unconventional routes [Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure

of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962]).

And people who have to pay each time they use a piece of information are

likely to increasingly rely upon specialists and experts. For example,

in a situation where the reader will have to pay to read each paragraph

of background on Bosnia, s/he is more likely to rely upon State Department

summaries instead of paying to become more generally informed him/herself.

And in...