The Power of Pay-per-Forward: Leaving Flat Fee Service Plans Behind

PNW Rural Broadband
7 min readMar 13, 2021

The Current State of ISP Pricing Models

There’s an uncomfortable truth everyone suspects and knows in one form or another but your ISP doesn’t want you to know about: they’re cheating you. They’re selling you a service plan that you are never actually receiving or using. They sell you internet that you select from a series of service plans based on “speed tiers.”

As a veteran of the ISP industry, that has worked at all levels — from one end to the other — of one of the largest national ISP’s I can tell you one simple truth that all ISP’s rely on using to make the most money while delivering the lowest quality service: selling speed tiers. Speed-tier service model pricing is the most powerful tool incumbent ISP’s have to over-sell (aka over-subscribe) their network. It’s a way of selling bandwidth they don’t have, but you won’t notice, because chances are you won’t use it. An ever (r)evolving series of speed tier service plans is how ISP’s have justified ever increasing service costs, that never go down, while getting you to happily pay for something you aren’t ever getting or using.

But there is a better way of doing things. A model where you only pay for what you’re getting and actually using. Enter: pay-per-forward.

What Is “Pay-per-Forward”?

At the Pacific NW Rural Broadband Alliance we are building broadband networks that function very differently than traditional ISP’s on a number of different levels. While we could talk about all the revolutionary technical components that go into these networks, and how the Althea technology platform allows us to build these networks quickly, efficiently, and reach areas that most ISP’s cant. But as the customer there’s one thing that people really care about: how much does your service cost?

Althea uses a unique billing model dubbed “pay-per-forward” (the technical deep-dive of this model can be read here). But what does “pay-per-forward” really mean? In the simplest of terms it’s a form of utilizing the internet that means you pay for what you use, not for what you don’t.

Most ISP’s lock you in a contract where they bill you a flat rate every month for a set speed tier. This…

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PNW Rural Broadband

We are The Pacific Northwest Rural Broadband Alliance, a non-profit foundation dedicated to building fast, affordable, community powered broadband networks.