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 caps is 250 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. 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.. Once you are confident that your plan can handle movies 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.
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.
- Monitor your usage on both your home and mobile plans. Notice trends, and make predictions accordingly. Modify your usage by incorporating many of these tips if you see that you’re using data too quickly. There are also free bandwidth monitors like SurplusMeter that can help with this.
- Disable automatic browser updates on your mobile device when you are on the go – they should be re-enabled when you are connected to your home WiFi network so that you will get the updates, however. Generally, your home connection can handle the data these automatic updates use though.
- Do not stream on your mobile device at hotspots or on-the-go. Instead, purchase digital music or movies and play them offline. When you download, do it on your home WiFi network instead of using your mobile device’s data plan.
- Stay away from HD streaming, even at home, unless you have one of those super bandwidth plans (400+ GB to unlimited cable or fiber optic plans – unlimited mobile plans, however, are really *not* unlimited).