Metered broadband back on the menu?

MPs have been alerted to the danger of 'young people swapping files' online, and told that P2P users should be made to pay for their bandwidth demands

The sticky issue of metered broadband services has resurfaced, with a government official saying that file-swappers should pay extra to cover the strain they put on communications networks.

David Hendon, head of business relations at the Department of Trade and Industry, told the DTI select committee last week that peer-to-peer (P2P) file-swapping is responsible for a significant chunk of network traffic in the UK.

He suggested that many broadband users primarily want an always-on connection, rather than one that allows them to download as much information as they want, and that P2P users should be held accountable for their activities.

"A lot of the data travelling over the Internet is caused by, well, 'young people swapping files' is one description," said Hendon, speaking at an inquiry into the UK's broadband market.

"If the network operators and ISPs have support this activity, then it seems only fair to make the users responsible pay for the bandwidth they use," Hendon added.

The DTI select committee will publish the results of its broadband inquiry early next year, and Hendon's comments could encourage them to push for pricing models based on the amount of data users download each month.

The government, though, insists that Hendon was only expressing a personal view.

"This isn't government policy, and it wouldn't be right for the government to have such as policy," a DTA spokesman told ZDNet UK. "We believe such issues must be left for the market and the regulator to decide," he added.

Most broadband packages allow users to download as much data as they want from the Internet, in return for a monthly fee. Some analysts believe, though, that this model may not be sustainable in the long term -- as today's low broadband prices mean most companies are only enjoying small margins.

NTL recently provoked the wrath of its user base after implementing a "one gigabyte per day" download limit, and it's thought that this furore has deterred other ISPs from following suit as yet.