(AP) -- How many gigabytes do you consume per month? Not many people can answer that question, complicating the efforts of Internet service providers to get their subscribers to stay below a certain amount of data per month.
In August, Netgear Inc. plans to introduce a $190 router that will provide the first easy way for users to get a grip on their Internet traffic.
Netgear said it will include the feature on future models, eventually making it a standard, and provide software upgrades for older devices.
Most Internet service providers set a limit for how much their subscribers are allowed to download each month. Those limits are mostly set high - it's 250 gigabytes per month at Comcast Corp. But some ISPs, led by Time Warner Cable Inc., have tried to set low limits, then charge extra for each gigabyte of data beyond the cap.
That has met with a lot of opposition, not least because most consumers have no idea how many gigabytes they consume each month. In April, Time Warner said it was postponing plans to expand a trial of metered billing beyond Beaumont, Texas, where it continues.
Time Warner Cable tried to educate its users by giving them a Web page where they could track their consumption. Netgear's routers will give owners a way to monitor their usage independently. The users can read the data in their Web browsers and could get customized alerts at certain levels.
Data-monitoring software already is available for PCs, but with game consoles, TV set-top boxes, iPhones and other devices now also connecting to the Internet, the PC software gives an incomplete picture of consumption in many households. Measuring at the router - through which all Internet traffic flows - captures it all. (It's possible to track consumption on certain routers by replacing the manufacturer's software with third-party packages, but it's a step for the technologically savvy.)
At another major maker of home routers, Cisco Systems Inc.'s Linksys division, spokeswoman Karen Sohl said consumption monitoring is "being looked at."
On the Net:
Netgear WNDR3700 router: http://bit.ly/exnCe
©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Explore further: Supercomputers a hidden power center of Silicon Valley