The days of a wide open frontier of unlimited data usage are fast coming to an end.
We’ve grown accustomed to the constantly-evolving wireless data plan caps imposed on our smartphones which border on being bait-and-switch scams; but could the same thing be coming to your local Internet service provider? Actually, whether you know it or not, in a lot of cases they’re already here. What does this mean for your business?
The days of a wide open frontier of unlimited data usage are fast coming to an end. In May, AT&T imposed a 150GB per month cap on DSL and 250GB per month cap on U-Verse subscribers. Overage is charged at $10 per 50GB. Comcast has long had a little-known 250GB per month cap on basic cable Internet subscriptions and can slow down Internet speeds for the remainder of the month. Comcast assures its customers that 99% of them will not be able to exceed this limit under normal circumstances, anyway. But is this reassuring as more of our lives interconnect with the web?
When you get right down to it, everything DOES seem to have an Internet tie-in these days. Beyond just surfing the web on your computer, everything you download chisels away at a data usage meter. If you’re using the same provider for Internet and broadcasting, the broadcast signal does not count against the data limit; but that’s not the case if you stream movies from Netflix, Hulu or even YouTube. The same is true when you listen to streaming music from your favorite online music library. Online gaming and game consoles that support Internet network gaming are slowly eating up bandwidth with every hour. If you have Wi-Fi setup in your home, all of your mobile devices probably automatically revert to the Wi-Fi signal for email, messaging and app functions to reduce your wireless data plan usage but in essence, these are simply being shifted to your ISP data plan. Voice-over-IP phone services are dirt-cheap but they supplant traditional phone lines for Internet bandwidth – even more so with video-conferencing made possible with free tools like Skype. Even home appliances are getting in on the action. You can get ovens that you can preheat from your phone during your commute, refrigerators and central heating systems that can self-diagnose and contact the service company for repair, and even home security systems that in addition to notifying authorities of an emergency can also be used to view your security cameras via the Internet on your phone, unlock doors for visitors or activate any number of lights and appliances remotely. The 21st century “connected” home is a marvelous innovation, but the price tag is that its connectivity has unpublished ongoing costs.
Businesses can run into the same complications because so much of our work lives also rely on the ubiquity of always-connected convenience. More business applications are web-based subscription models instead of locally-installed to onsite computers. Data hosting for these applications or for simple conveniences like file synchronization are constantly exchanging data across the network and that bandwidth meter keeps ticking each month. And of course, many businesses are shifting from banks of phone lines to VoIP solutions, which add to the Internet workload. The constant data demand is also longer in a business … even if you spend 6-8 hours a day using your home Internet, a business will be pounding away at its Internet for 16-20 hours, on average. Fortunately, depending on what class of business Internet service you get, the data caps are likely higher or less aggressively enforced, as long as they are not regularly exceeded. This is one of the “perks” of paying for the higher-priced, business-class Internet, as opposed to skimping and only paying for residential-class Internet for your business needs.
If you’re concerned that you may be close to exceeding your data cap, or if you’ve already encountered situations where you’ve exceeded your data limit, there are some convenient tools that allow you to track your Internet usage. These are usually provided by your Internet service provider – so you may want to get in touch with them first to learn exactly what your limitations are and how you can avoid getting caught by surprise!
is the Business Support Manager for Helios, LLC. He is chiefly responsible for Helios’ media and public communication as well as overseeing any training initiatives. Contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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