|Posted on May 2, 2012 at 8:55 AM|
While our goal at this website is to encourage people to give streaming services a try and experience their benefits, we would be doing you a serious disservice if we didn't regularly sound the trumpet about managing your data plans. Most wireline internet providers (DSL and cable) as well as mobile data plans have limits on how much data you can consume within one month. Lots of people find this out the hard way when they discover streaming, and end up with some type of penalty.
DSL & Cable Providers Introduce Caps in the Last Year
Two of the three big names in broadband, Comcast and AT&T, have introduced caps to their plans, presumably to try and curb the growing demand for streaming and other heavy bandwidth activities like online gaming. (Verizon does not have any caps as of yet). Comcast's cap is 300 GB for all of it's plans; AT&T DSL plans have a 150 GB cap, and their Uverse packages are capped at 250 GB. For most people who engage in moderate streaming, this will not be a problem. For example, I have five children, and 2 of them are teenagers. So - we have a decent amount of music and movie streaming going on in our household, and yours truly works on her computer a good 8 hours a day. We have AT&T's DSL service, and we haven't gone over our cap yet. (Update - we did go over our cap twice during the summer when we experienced a heatwave and kids were not outside) It's conceivable that we may during certain seasons (e.g. winter, when the kids are less active). AT&T will charge us $10 for each 50 GB we consume. So even for our large family, these caps are doable.
There are some cable providers who have caps much lower than that. We encourage you to check into what your individual plan consists of, and even do a little comparison shopping if necessary. You might want to check out our article on how to match your online activities to the right broadband plan, and conduct a broadband speed test (see link under Articles & Tools to the upper right of your screen). Once you are confident that your plan can handle streaming, there are ways to manage it as well. Most internet providers will let you monitor your daily usage so that you can predict patterns of usage. For instance, we use about 3GB of data during the week when the kids are at school, but use about 7GB on the weekends. If it's a rainy day, we've used up to 9 GB.
There are also online tools that help you project your weekly or monthly usage. These broadband usage calculators will ask you questions like how many hours do you surf per week, how many emails do you receive, how many JPEG files do you swap, how many music or movie downloads, and how much streaming do you do.
Mobile Broadband Plans Are Much More Data Restrictive
When you use your mobile device on-the-go, that's when you really have to be cautious about your online activities, particularly with streaming. If you have a 3, 5 or 10 GB data plan, and you use about 1.5 GB to stream one movie, it's easy to see that 2-5 movies can quickly chomp through your data. Even so-called "unlimited" data plans really aren't meant (at this time) to handle streaming, and many users of these plans have reported serious throttling issues when they engage in streaming.
It's also important to be careful about traveling. A Saskatchewan province family made the news when their family vacation to Arizona turned into an $11,000 bill in streaming. Turns out that roaming charges were the culprit.
Responsible Ways to Manage Streaming
For most of us, we can easily incorporate this new technology into our lives without fear of penalty by keeping in mind a few strategies for managing our data.
For more great tips, check out this link.
Categories: How To