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Why Tiered Data Scares the Kilobytes Out of Me



The current industry trend is to move towards tiered data plans, but the scary news is this isn’t limited to our smartphones and mobile hotspots. No, it’s also aimed at restricting our in home use from services like Comcast.

Data caps may seem quite high when you are looking at them in the store, and you are coming from a device that doesn’t support media rich applications, but once you start using your data it goes fast.

Case in point. This week I am in the midst of a move, which makes me one of the most mobile workers I know right now. Thanks to some cable cutting issues with the previous owners I am without a speedy Time Warner connection for another few days. This has left me relying on my MiFi for the past week, which solidified it’s place as my most indispensable gadget.


Oh No! Tiered Data!

I chose a MiFi over using a mobile hotspot because I have yet to find a reliable mobile hotspot on a phone that I like, and I like to have some battery life left after getting online. I am on the now defunct 2GB MiFi data plan, which seemed like plenty last year, but is already too small for mild use.

Up until this week I wasn’t really aware of how much data I used while writing posts for and GottaBeMobile, but after just 4 days of MiFi use I am at 1.6GB of data used. This is pretty amazing considering I have ben using the device mainly for writing, uploading medium resolution images and checking out the occasional YouTube video clip to embed. The only data heavy task I used the device for was to stream one episode of the Daily Show to my iPad.

If I can blow through 2GB in a snap when I am trying to conserve, I don’t want to think about how the poor users on Tiered data plans will have to monitor their usage with apps like Hulu Plus and Netflix finally arriving on more Android devices.

That doesn’t even take into account the 250GB data cap that Comcast puts on usersand data caps which other providers have tried to roll out. If I had to worry about my home internet usage I would lose my mind.

Data caps

It's easy to use 2Gb of Data without trying.

On any given day I am backing up 3 computers to the cloud, streaming media of all types, downloading apps, system updates, playing Netflix or Hulu on one of several connected devices, and that’s just my usage; it doesn’t include My wife’s online backup and media consumption activities.

Comcast has already cut off  several users who breached the 250GB cap, and has no qualms about shutting down the connection of other users who go over the magical 250GB threshold twice in 6 months. At least cellular operators allow you to buy more data instead of kicking you off. When cable connections first arrived on the scene, illegal downloading may have been one of the few ways to go over 250GB in a month, but with streaming cloud backup and other data heavy tasks it’s only a matter of time before more users run into these same issues.

What do you think about tiered data plans? Have you purchased a phone early to get unlimited data, or taken other steps to ensure that you have a healthy supply of data waiting when you want to get online?

Image via chris_ford_uk



  1. Alain Chappaz

    07/28/2011 at 7:13 pm

    I think tiered plans are (at least for now) inevitable in the mobile world, but suck rocks on the landline side.

  2. Thiggins

    07/28/2011 at 11:26 pm

    I think data caps are anti-progress, and eventually the connection providers will realize this when their profits are affected. Perhaps the talking points providers spew out are currently accurate (that only a small percentage of advanced users come up against their caps), but they have lost their “truthy” cred. As more and more people stream video and use cloud services, more will hit that cap and then cut their use to stay under their cap. Farewell the extra profit because people will not utilize the services that are already available, let alone those new services that will be born in the future.

  3. Synergi

    07/29/2011 at 12:10 am

    Well if they keep it up, maybe AOL can make a comeback. AOL got rid of the tiered pay for use plans to compete with the all you can eat ISP’s. I think it is a mistake for a Cable TV company to own an ISP. It is in their best interest to keep you from streaming so you keep their high cable tv packages.

    I did pick up a phone last year when I heard we would move to tiered. Now I’m grandfathered in and I also feel trapped. If you are on unlimited, you aren’t going to want to give it up to try another provider who may or may not work out. This whole thing completely sucks for the consumer.

  4. Ntw1103

    07/29/2011 at 2:09 am

     This would be a horrible for me… on average, I use 7GB down and 1GB upload of bandwidth a day.

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    07/29/2011 at 4:09 am

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