Most months, we don’t really run low on our data plan. We’ve had maybe two months or the last twelve where I’ve had to say “We need to cool it” for the final week.

It’s going to take something Herculean this month to avoid going over, because everything converged into a single billing period.

The first thing that happened was a stupid error on my part. I was downloading Wikipedia when I left to drop Lain off at preschool. The result was that on the very first day of the plan, we lost 20% of our usage for the month. Last month – one of the two where we had to cool it – we ended at 9%. So right off the bat, there were going to need to be some adjustments. The second thing is that we had a storm and it took out our Internet, and made it more unreliable than usual. Actually, for about 48 hours it was deader than dead. Then it was extremely unreliable to where I could do emails and Twitter but that was about it. Now, a good portion of our data usage in general is compensating for our unreliable home connection. So when we need to “cool it” we usually just accept the unreliability. But you can’t do that when it’s out entirely, or nearly so. Oh, and Monday was Procrastinators’ Tax Day, and we procrastinated. The Internet should be working again at the end of the week, but then the last one is that I agreed to help Decision Desk HQ with vote totals in a nearby county for the Virginia gubernatorial race. And, of course, I’ll be using my own data. That’s on 11/7, which is the second to last day of the billing period.

All of this is screaming for us to go with an Unlimited Plan, but money is kind of tight right now and we just can’t justify the price hop. We’re on the highest data plan otherwise.

The phone companies are working on the rollout of 5G. I’d rather they work on the bandwidth of existing networks so that using data is less expensive.


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About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

7 Responses to Data Plan Blues

  1. fillyjonk says:

    “I’d rather they work on the bandwidth of existing networks so that using data is less expensive.”

    Seems to me that being able to charge high-freight to customers using existing networks (rather than raising bandwidth) would be seen as a feature rather than a bug by many ISPs.

    • trumwill says:

      Most definitely. The main reason for one of them to do it is that they will be able to advertise higher thresholds. Ironically, the shift to “unlimited data” makes this less likely rather than more, because now they don’t advertise the caps at all. (Since the plan is unlimited, what happens now is that after you reach your cap the speeds slow down considerably.)

  2. Marchmaine says:

    If the issue is tethering, we recently found Unlimitedville… which provides actual unlimited LTE data with a modem (get the Mofi) and can serve the entire house as a replacement for DSL (which we dropped). Basically it is the unadvertised Rural LTE requirement that all 4 mobile networks have to offer, but don’t have to tell anyone about it.

    Its not cheap, but it works (as long as you can get good 4G LTE mobile service at your location)… and it is truly unlimited, not 15GB unlimited (tethering).

    Still might not fit your budget, but as someone who was using data plans to supplement crappy DSL at 1.5Mb speeds, I feel you.

  3. gregiank says:

    “downloading wikipedia”???

  4. Michael Cain says:

    I’d rather they work on the bandwidth of existing networks so that using data is less expensive.

    Broadly speaking, that’s not how it works.

    In a given area, the carrier has a finite frequency spectrum on which they operate, under terms of an FCC license. That’s necessary in order for them to push watts rather than milliwatts.

    Within finite spectrum, you can push only so many bits per second, and it’s dependent on the coding scheme. There’s no magic research or switch that lets 4G carry more bits per hertz. That’s largely what 4G was about compared to 3G, and what 5G will be compared to 4G.

    Giving those constraints, the only way to give subscribers access to more bandwidth is to have more and smaller cells. Unless the number of subscribers increases accordingly, the result of that is higher costs, not lower — someone has to pay for the fiber to the new base station, rent for the location, electronics, antenna, backup power, etc.

    I used to try to convince regulators and school districts that it was in the interests of their students and parents (and voters) to provide space and power — mostly a closet and a tiny portion of all those big flat roofs — to the cellular companies as a way to get more base stations in place. One of the two major political parties in this country claims that’s socialism and must. not. happen.

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