HOW MUCH IS THE INTERNET WORTH TO YOU? Kids, don’t let the term “consumer surplus” bother you. It’s just another of the unfortunate and confusing terms that economists use. You can think of it as the aggregate value that all consumers would give to the benefit they get from a lower price for a commodity. In this case, the lower price is the hypothetical free use of the internet. The question is what consumers would pay for their use of the internet. One of the ways that economists have estimated that amount is to take what surveys say are the number of leisure hours a week that people spend on the internet. The surveys show 3 to 5.8 hours a week. Assume 5 hours a week, take $10 an hour as the value of a consumer’s time, and you get $2600 a year. Multiply by the number of consumers and you get $564 billion. The Economist expresses skepticism: “Would consumers really pay $2600 for the internet?” I guess I would. I spend more than 1 hour a day on the internet, and I experience withdrawal pains when a storm cuts me off from the internet for even a short time.

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