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ISP data usage limits (not funny!)

On: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

If you haven't got the patience to read this, skip down to "Advice". Earlier this year my cable provider started scrambling all but a few channels. Seemed innocuous enough. It took me a week to realize I could no longer watch cable TV on my PC (I had an inexpensive digital tuner.) Only a handful of local channels were not scrambled. My choices were upgrade my PC to accept a cablecard, or watch TV over the internet. I chose to upgrade my PC with a Cablecard tuner. I started paying for a Cablecard, and can see my chanels again. Cablecard cost: negligible (around $1 a month.) Cablecard tuner, upgraded PC, Windows 7: expensive one time cost, incredible amount of tech support, beautiful picture. Dodged a bullet by not downloading TV programs over the internet (read on!) Next: a seemingly innocent email from my ISP saying they will be monitoring data usage, with a monthly limit: 250G. This is part of their "Acceptable Use Policy". Within 2 weeks I get the phone call from "Customer Security Assurance" telling me that I am 4 time over the limit in the pilot month. If I go over again they will cutoff my internet access for 12 months. They did not mention that the warning clock resets in 6 months. Not what I signed up for, but I am flexible. Good thing I am not downloading TV program over the internet! So... I did what you would probably do, looked into my internet data exchange (data uploads and downloads.) My ISP offers a page with an accumulating total. It shows that, 7 days into the month, I am already 70% into my allowance. So I found a free bandwidth meter so I could see what went where and when in real time. Good news: it showed that my usage, is 1.61GB for today as of 6:22 PM. I can't explain why it's that high, but "it is." I noticed, of course, that the other computers in the house were not monitored. But, within a few minutes, they were. The software is easy to use. OK - that's the story, now some things to ponder before I offer advice. Where is that "data leak?" Why did we use 167 GB in 7 days - 23 GB per day? It's too soon for the monitor to help. But a couple of questions and some common sense gave me some answers.
  • We use Netflix to see movies online (BAM)
  • we use, rarely, bittorrent (BA-BOOM)
  • We have 2 XBoxes for online play (no info on the data exchange yet.)
  • We have a wireless printer (not a problem, but a privacy thing)
  • we have a streaming security camera (not online, though)
  • I have the HD tuner Cablecard (yes, it's a "huge" network data device but no, it doesn't draw a TV signal from the 'net)
  • we download the occasional Itunes album (POP)
  • I support a few blogs (MID-BAM)
  • we have a wireless router (FLEX-A-BAM and yes, that belongs on this list!)
  • and of course, browsing, email, all that stuff (POOF)
The free data monitor watches internet AND local 'net usage, so don't be led astray. Local net usage can be quite high. The printer? I did notice all the neighbors printers in response to a query, along with every ipod, touchpad and school computer that passed through this residence. Not a problem but make sure your wireless router is encrypted. Be wary of the HORROR, THE HORROR! Kids get together to download movies, music and to play online games. The wireless router? The best candidate for sneaky data leaks charged to your monthly usage. I have a booster to reach one PC in the netherworld, but that boosts the signal within the neighbors grasp as well. I got lazy cause I couldn't get some things to work with a password. BUT now I have the encryption in place. No pass/encryption means trouble with a capital T and that stands for Theft of Signal and data usage leaks. Some ISPs have a smaller monthly limit (Holy crap!) None (that I know of) have an alternate data usage plan (i.e. pay more get more.) Remember when you first accessed "timesharing" computers or services, like Compushare? You paid by the minute and that was to use their computer/servers. I hope we are not going back in that direction (I don't think so, just messin' with you) Advice: To minimize data exchange to meet ISP limits, consider the following:
  • get that bandwidth usage monitor on every computer in the house, see for yourself. Or get a router level usage monitor.
  • use netflix, blockbuster online? utorrent? lots of r-a-p-i-d-s-h-a-r-e downloads? You are screwed. I have no advice but to monitor your usage and kick and cry.
  • streaming camera? Ehhh... OK for LAN, online streaming will have an impact.
  • Wireless LAN? turn that encryption ON, I guarantee someone else is innocently highjacking your ISP connection, since systems are setup to acquire working connections (they don't care about ownership.)
  • ISP portals for viewing TV, like XFINITY, are offered by your ISP but eat up your monthly limit. Conflict there. Complain about it.
  • Be prepared for the other shoe to drop. These limits push aside other sources (legal or not) to access "Stuff" that your ISP will want to sell to you in the future or, well, right now. Complain when it happens. Something about a monopoly... Oh wait, it's not a monopoly, all the ISPs are doing this. THAT's a CONSPIRACY.
  • The USA is ranked 22 or 23 in the world for "internet capability". Talk to your local and federal government about improving that so no one has an excuse to limit your access.

2 comments on "ISP data usage limits (not funny!)"

JimG said...

I have two comments -
1-why set a limit? my isp said 99% of their customers have data rates lower than 250G. Seems to me they are targeting the high data rate folks, I think because they assume what they are downloading (movies and music) and that threaten their bread and butter - media services.
2-I would feel better if I knew they were addressing some genuine problem, like an overloaded infrastructure. They do not state why they have set limits, but I think having the limit under their "Acceptable Use Policy" says it all. It's not about overload, its about not liking what's being up/downloaded. Is all the data exchange illegal? I KNOW my ex-employer exchanges Tera-B of data per day supporting critical data systems. I suspect, though it is not said, that business customers are exempt. Perhaps this is the loophole.

Dreemfinder said...

I had a TMobile Data Card for internet access on the road and at home... with a 30 day/5 gig limit. Nearly broke me. I paid the penalty and turned it in. Why is there a limit? There's a buck to be made.

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