Beware Your Internet Data Caps

The stats say that 75% of all bits on the Internet are for video and that is a number that is up from 63% two years ago.

Cisco says that Internet traffic will reach 396 exabytes a month by 2022.  That is 396,000,000,000,000,000,000 .  Which is a big number.

While regular video for, say, Netflix, consumes about 1 gigabyte an hour and HD video consumes about 3 gigabytes an hour, 4K video consumes about 10 gigabytes an hour.

As ISPs, who are typically also your cable TV provider, lose cable customers, they try to figure out how to make up that lost revenue.  One way to do that is to put data caps on your Internet.  Use more than your cap this month, you get to pay a surcharge of (it varies) maybe $10 for every 50 gigabytes extra that you use.

The Internet providers say they have to do it to manage their networks, but the evidence seems to support that it is actually just an extra way to make money.

There are actually two problems here.

One is how much data you are trying to push through the pipe per second.  If your pipe to the Internet isn’t big enough around, everything just slows down.

The other problem is how much data you use per month and does your plan have a cap.  Some do,  Others don’t.  Some charge you extra every single month to get rid of the cap, whether you would have exceeded it or not.  Others remove it if you buy more services from the vendor.

So what are you to do as a business or consumer?

Be a smart shopper.

Understand how fast your connection is,  For businesses, if you are paying for, say, a 100 megabit per second connection and you are always using 100 megabits per second, your users are probably sitting around watching the paint dry.  Getting a faster connection could save you money as people tend to get de-focused when it takes 30 seconds or more for the screen to refresh.

Same thing at home.  I hate waiting for my Internet “paint” to dry.  I live in the rural world so I make a tradeoff.  I can’t even buy service that legally qualifies as broadband, but that is a separate conversation.  Understand the speed that you have and ask your ISP how much you are using on average (per second) and at the peak to decide if you should upgrade your service to the next speed.

The other half is your total monthly usage.  Understand IF you have any usage caps and what they are?  Customers of fixed wireless and satellite are the most impacted, but cable has caps too – sometimes only 250 gigabytes per month but maybe as high as 1 terabyte.  Understand how much you are using and what your trend is so that you don’t get surprised by a penalty.

Some providers, including cellular, don’t give you a cap but instead slow down your traffic (called throttling) if you use too much.

Other providers will remove the cap if you pay extra every month, whether you exceed that cap or not.  You need to see if that  makes sense for you.

For businesses that have servers in a colo or in the cloud, those providers also charge more if you use more.

Bottom line – like in most situations, be a smart customer.  And understand your speed requirements and total usage.  Also, know that your usage is only going to go up, so you will need to revisit this conversation in a year.

Source: Motherboard.


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