Monday, November 10, 2008
Some Internet service providers are already trying to combat the problem by placing quotas on the amount of data that its subscribers can download within the space of a month. For example, Comcast has placed some unspecified limit on the amount of data that its subscribers can download. If a subscriber downloads excessively, that subscriber's service can be cut off. Of course, nothing in the company's literature (at least nothing that's easily accessible) states exactly what amount of downloading is considered excessive, but some subscribers have already lost their service because of this policy. Sprint also recently announced limits on the amount of data that can be transferred over the course of a month through its 3G mobile data service. This cap is five gigabytes per month, or three hundred megabytes when roaming. While this might not sound like much, Sprint reports that the vast majority (over 99 percent) of its mobile customers don't come close to downloading five gigs worth of data over the course of a month. If you're concerned about your Internet usage, there are some steps that you can take to avoid being cut off. The first step is obviously to determine if your Internet service provider has limits, and if so, what those limits are. If the Internet service provider's literature isn't specific about those limits, you may have to press them to be specific. The more subscribers that pressure an Internet service provider to make their policy available, the more likely the ISP is to be transparent.
If you discover that your Internet service provider does institute limits on the amount of data that you can download, you can take steps to limit your data transfer. The first thing to look at is video. Video consumes an enormous amount of bandwidth. This is especially true if you're downloading or streaming high def video! Opting for standard def video and picking and choosing what you download or stream will reduce the amount of data that is transferred over your Internet connection. Music and photos are the next biggest consumers of bandwidth. Streaming Internet radio might not be particularly data intensive, but it can really add up if you're listening to Internet radio stations for large portions of the day, day in and day out.
In addition to your conscious use of the Internet, you should also be aware of things that your computer may be doing without your knowledge. For example, software updates, virus definitions for your antivirus software, and the activity of malware can all contribute to your overall Internet use. Software updates are a good thing, but it might not hurt to set your computer to ask for your permission before downloading and installing them. That way you can be aware of how much of your download quota is being used for this process. You might also want to shut off your Internet connection when you aren't using it. This will minimize the chances of unauthorized data transfers due to malware and hackers.