Useful Tips For Managing Internet Providers’ Usage-Based Caps

In the ever-changing world of the technology and innovation, it’s no surprise that there are changes being made to the way we access the internet. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that every provider charged a per-minute fee just to surf the web. We then went through a period where virtually all providers offered unlimited access. Now we’re settling into a middle ground – usage based caps. But what does it mean for you? And how can you navigate this sometimes complicated field? We’ve got the tips you need to make sense of it all.

The Different Types of Usage-Based Caps

Some companies do what is known as ‘throttling’. They will commonly refer to their data plan as ‘unlimited’, and while technically that is true, in practice it can be a bit trickier. The way it works is simple enough: if you go over a certain amount of data, then your internet speed will be slowed. In some cases it becomes so slow that it can be all but impossible to utilize. While this might not ‘technically’ be a cap, it certainly affects the way you use the internet.

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Others have a more straight forward usage-based cap, which simply warns you after you’ve used a certain amount of data, which may or may not result in any type of penalty. In other cases, you may be charged additional fees if you go over, or the internet provider may try to sell you a pricier plan. Understand that as you research each company, they might be using the same term to talk about these different types of usage caps.

Useful Tips For Managing Internet Providers' Usage-Based Caps

Get the Facts on a Provider by Provider Basis

Right now there isn’t one standard that all providers are following. There are different amounts of data allowed before caps, and there different consequences to going over the amount of data you’ve been allotted. Find out what your current provider’s limits are, or check into providers you’re considering using. If you’re in a contract, then it’s likely they can’t be imposed until your contract is up – so keep an eye on your contract’s renewal date and look to see if data caps have been added.

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Consider the Upside

While the idea of these caps can seem like nothing but a negative, for some it’s actually a positive. Until now, no matter how much internet you used you were likely paying the same as everyone else with the same plan. For light users this was actually a disadvantage. It does make sense that someone who uses 3 times as much bandwidth should pay more than someone who uses very little. If you’re not a super heavy internet user, then the current usage-based caps likely won’t affect you. Actually, without these caps, providers would likely raise their rates on everyone across the board. Instead, those who use the internet more will be charged more, so it could actually turn out to be a positive for you.

Understand What You Can Do

If you do think you’ll be affected by caps, then there are a few things you can do. First, you can consider switching to a provider with a more generous policy, or who has not yet imposed usage-based caps. Just be aware that it’s likely most if not all companies will be imposing these shortly if they’re not already.

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Some companies offer tiered service, which means you can purchase a data plan with a varying amount of available data. If you go over the amount you’ve agreed upon, then you could be charged fees. In this case, it’s often a better plan to switch to a higher plan and to avoid paying overage fees.

Some companies offer plans that differentiate between peak hours and non-peak hours.  If you’re flexible and can use the internet at non-peak hours, then you might be able to take advantage of these money-saving options.

Ruth Suelemente enjoys writing about newsworthy items in the broadband industry.  She recommends as a resource for comparing the specifications of various internet providers.