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Usage-based billing was the norm in the early days of the internet, when we got online over the phone, but it was usually tied to online time rather than the amount of data transferred.

Plans typically included a certain number of hours of dial-up access.

Usage-based billing: words that can elicit strong emotions, especially from heavy users of the internet who signed up for unlimited plans with some of the country's smaller internet service providers.

Smaller ISPs have their own connections to the internet, but only the big companies have direct connections to people's homes — a part of the network known as "the last mile." So companies like Teksavvy and MTS Allstream rent network access at wholesale prices from companies such as Bell and Rogers in order to create and sell their own retail internet packages to business and consumer customers.

Markus Giesler, an associate professor at York University's Schulich School of Business, says when disruptive pricing strategies are backed by a regulatory body, it is especially frustrating for the consumer.

But, he adds, events generally unfold in unforeseen ways."Every such decision has unintended consequences.

If you have an unlimited usage plan, usage-based billing may not affect you immediatley — although it could affect the future of your plan.

None of the big internet service providers (ISPs) offer unlimited plans.

The leaders were South Korea at 27.64 Mbps, Lithuania at 24.28 Mbps, and Latvia at 15.9 Mbps.

You could send/receive 105,000 emails, download more than 200 songs or download 1½ movies.

While that might be enough to allow those companies to continue turning a profit, it won't allow them to offer plans with unlimited internet access to heavy online users.

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