OPINION: One bill, one little bill…

How much do you pay for internet? Providers certainly make it hard for you to know. You might be paying for a bundle that includes landline phone and TV, which probably costs about $120 a month after fees and taxes. Then there’s your cell phone, which probably gets more use as a data device than as a voice one. A typical family with two adults and two teens or young adults might pay about $200 a month for four devices, maybe more. Add all tha up and when you talk about your internet you’re paying close to $4,000 a year. You’re getting a lot for that money — live TV to every room, landline phone for emergencies, internet that’s fast enough most of the time, plus four communication devices and mobile internet on each (plus voice and text of course). You’re also paying all the taxes that keep these devices connected, remember that internet service relies on a lot of public money.)

But it’s still $4,000 a year and that’s a lot of money. It’s more than you probably spend on electricity or water, and it’s enough to feed one person for a year. But you do it, because to be honest, the internet is part of life today. You could no less do without it than you could do without electricity in general. For most people it’s critical to how they make a living at all.

So what I’m thinking is, I want one bill, one internet, one experience. I think part of the problem is that we pay twice for our internet. We pay for wireline internet for the home and mobile internet for our phones. Maybe that needs to stop. Remember when everyone paid for landline phones AND internet at the same time? That’s kind of done, so why are we even worried about paying twice for internet?

Unlike phone service, mobile internet is still fairly expensive compared to home internet. With your home internet you can have dozens of devices and get top speeds of close to 100Mbps, with no data caps or very reasonable ones. On the other hand, mobile internet speeds (while higher than ever) are still fairly low and your internet slows down a lot if you exceed a modest data cap. It’s not apples-to-apples yet.

Of course this is changing as providers like AT&T roll out truly unlimited plans. The industry is racing to build new cell towers and increase speed and capacity to try to keep people on their phones longer. Eventually it will get to the point where you really can get all the data you want just using mobile.

AT&T is hoping its plans for 5G will bring this closer to reality. A roof-mounted antenna could let homes get very desirable speeds with just cellular, and drive data to all those devices without cellular radios, like laptops and streaming boxes. Trust me, there will come a time in the future when one internet bill will be all you need. It will be one bill that covers all your consumption on all your devices.

At that point, you’ll begin to feel comfortable with the idea that you don’t need copper or fiber into your home just to have internet there. You’ll get it all from one company and wired internet will just seem like a relic from another century, the way landline phones do now.

As for me… I can’t wait.