Cap Data UseInternet use has skyrocketed over the last several years, and streaming audio, video and online gaming have become the main form of entertainment in many households. While many customers may be used to paying a flat monthly fee for their internet use that is tied to the speed of service, a recent trend among the major providers is to move to tiered plans based upon data usage. This is an important difference and could be costly to unassuming customers. Read more about the plans that high speed internet providers are testing in select markets and how you can effectively manage your internet use at home to avoid paying extra fees.

Internet data plans:

Tier plans: With these types of plans, providers generally offer plans based upon a set amount of data usage. So X amount of dollars will allot a customer X amount of GB per month, for example. The more data offered, the more expensive the plan. If a customer goes over their plan’s allotment in a given month, they usually receive a warning and are asked to pay extra money for the extra amount of data used. The tier plans work well for customers who use a consistent amount of data each month, and offer the flexibility of using extra data for a fee.

Data cap plans: While some companies have implemented data cap plans, not all are strictly enforcing them yet. With data cap plans, companies reserve the right to “pull the plug” on your service if you attempt to go over your plan’s data allotment. Other companies prefer throttling, which significantly slows down a customer’s service if they go over their data cap. Some companies will allow customers to pay extra money if they need extra data in a particular month, similar to the tier plans. The data cap plans can be more restrictive if companies choose to strictly enforce them.

Tips on managing your online data usage:

If you find yourself stuck with a tier or data cap plan, don’t despair. The key is to know what the data hogs are and how to monitor your online activities effectively. Try these tips to efficiently manage your data use:

  • First, grab a tool to monitor your data usage. You can install programs on your computer and browser-specific extensions that will keep track of your data usage while online.
  • Video. If you are a big fan of HD quality video, get ready to pay up. HD video is one of the top culprits when it comes to data use. If you don’t want to exceed your data cap, then you will either have to limit your HD video watching or sacrifice image quality and watch lower resolution videos. But HD videos are not the only data hogs. There are programs that can block those video ads that automatically began playing when you load a web page. Those video advertisements count towards your data limit as well.
  • Streaming services: Music and video streaming services can chew up a great deal of data. These are services that can be used for several hours a day.
  • Cloud services: Personal collections of music, video and photos are now often stored in the cloud versus on an external hard drive. Cloud usage can eat away at your data cap quickly. Research the various cloud services to see which one is most efficient for your needs, or consider using an external hard drive to store your personal media collection.
  • Skype: Video chat services like Skype and Google Hangouts can eat up a good deal of bandwidth, depending upon how often you use the service.

As you can see, it is very important to pay to attention to the small print and any notifications your service provider sends out regarding changes to your plan. If you find yourself having to choose one of the new tiered plans, you will have to take the time to get an accurate count of the data your family uses in a given month. In addition to basic web surfing, that also includes online gaming, streaming music and streaming movies. With a bit of research, you can discover which plan is right for your household.

Guest author Brenda Livingston writes about internet service  technology and is dedicated to helping consumers make informed decisions.