[ih] Billing by the Byte in NZ (was Re: History of "accounts")

Joe Abley jabley at hopcount.ca
Wed Feb 12 12:25:29 PST 2014

On 2014-02-12, at 13:50, Brian E Carpenter <brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com> wrote:

> I wasn't in New Zealand at the relevant time, but I understand
> that charging by the Internet byte was normal due to the high cost
> and scarcity of trans-Pacific capacity in the 1990s.

The need to account for internet traffic by the byte was commonplace at commercial ISPs when I returned to New Zealand in 1996. The need to account for relative use of Internet capacity by the various NZ universities who bought internet capacity together under the name "Kawaihiko" led to the development of NeTraMeT by Nevil Brownlee, which we also used at CLEAR to bill frame-relay customers for international internet traffic.

("Kawaihiko" was explained to me as "fire root", the closest Maori word anybody could construct that meant something like "computer network".)

Trans-Pacific (and trans-Tasman) cable system capacity became extremely scarce in the late 90s, leading to a proliferation of capacity augmentation by satellite (iHUG, CLEAR, no doubt others) and some creative re-routing traffic out of Australia from circuits provisioned Tas-II to PacRim-East to free up capacity for sale in NZ on PRE. Before that bandwidth crunch, I think the principal reason to account for every byte was the cost of circuits, not a lack of capacity.

Southern Cross went live late in 2000 and ultimately relieved the international capacity shortage on PRE.

Billing by the byte turned into bandwidth caps which remain prevalent, although some providers are now attempting to disrupt the market by selling unlimited service. Earlier attempts at such disruption (e.g. Chello in 2000) did not last long.

<http://wiki.wlug.org.nz/NewZealandInternetHistory> provides some fun reading.


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