Technology appears to be making fine-scale charging (as in tolls on roads that depend on time of day or even on current and anticipated levels of congestion) increasingly feasible. And such charging appears to be increasingly desirable, as traffic on roads continues to grow, and costs and public opposition limit new construction. Similar incentives towards fine-scale charging also appear to be operating in communications and other areas, such as electricity usage. Standard economic theory supports such measures, and technology is being developed and deployed to implement them. But their spread is not very rapid, and prospects for the future are uncertain. This paper presents a collection of sketches, some from ancient history, some from current developments, that illustrate the costs that charging imposes. Some of those costs are explicit (in terms of the monetary costs to users, and the costs of implementing the charging mechanisms). Others are implicit, such as the time or the mental processing costs of users. These argue that the case for fine-scale charging is not unambiguous, and that in many cases may be inappropriate.
Levinson, David and Andrew Odlyzko (2008) Too Expensive to Meter: The influence of transaction costs in transportation and communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 366(1872) 2033–2046.
Levinson, David M; Odlyzko, Andrew.
Too Expensive to Meter: The influence of transaction costs in transportation and communication.
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