Friday, 20 January 2017

Data limits

Gosh, nearly a week since my last post. People will be thinking that I've been ill, or snatched by a Security Organisation - CIA, MI6, take your pick - and whisked away to a Secret Location for interrogation. Perhaps on account of what I might have said somewhere in these annals about Donald Trump. Who knows.

But it's not so. I'm alive and well. Mundane issues have curbed my urge to go online and start typing posts. Among them the Terrible Fact that I've reached my monthly data limit with BT, which is 25GB. Indeed BT's phone app tells me that at the very moment of typing these words I have only 571MB remaining. I shall certainly use that up on this post or the next, both of which I intend to publish tonight.

BT keep tabs on my usage and say that normally I consume only 13.5 GB a month, so that a 25GB allowance is usually more than adequate. The 'normal' 13.5GB mostly represents BBC TV programmes watched on iPlayer. Data consumed by (a) composing and publishing blog posts and (b) uploading pictures to Flickr accounts for nearly all the rest.

Streaming an hour's worth of TV programming gobbles up about 600MB. So if we say that 20GB of this month's allowance has been iPlayer-watching, then that must represent 33 hours of TV. Which seems broadly correct. During my bad cold (that started soon after Christmas Day and extended into January) I got into the habit of watching an hour or half and hour of catch-up TV mid-evening or late at night. I can easily believe that, taken as a whole, it might come to as much as 33 hours' viewing. Hence the present 'crisis' with exceeding the limit.

To be fair, BT did give me timely warning by email at the 18GB point, and then more than once after that. It's only in the last week that I've begun to ration my Internet use at all seriously. I now of course regret some of my more casual and 'unnecessary' viewing earlier in January. I should have planned it all better, to stay within that 25GB allowance. Now BT will start charging £1.80 for each part-GB over my limit. It doesn't sound much, but I've still got twelve days to go before the meter is reset, and I don't see how I can avoid going at least 5GB over my limit in that time. That will earn me a 'fine' of 5 x £1.80 = £9.00. That's enough to be annoying!

BT will of course urge me to upgrade to Unlimited Broadband. An unlimited allowance would let me download stuff, or stream catch-up TV, to my heart's content - and not worry about limits. And it would only be another £5.00 a month.

Just another £5.00... It sounds like a very reasonable deal. But that would be £5.00 extra a month for evermore. And I'm trying to save money, not increase my outgoings.

There's more. An upgrade means a fresh contract, and I'd have to pay my annual landline rental (which is £205.08 for 2017/18) when the new contract starts - now - and not when it would otherwise have been up for payment in April. Paying it sooner than planned would create a cash-flow problem. Not insurmountable, but awkward.

Besides, I come back to the fact that, normally, I don't use a large amount of data each month. And certainly not from March to November, when I'm away from home for two or three weeks at a time and simply can't use up data at home. The winter months are the heavy-usage months, when there might be lots of things on TV that I want to watch, and l'lI need to see some of them on the iPlayer.

This January has been exceptional. It's not how things have become.

So I am going to ignore BT's warnings, and their 'advice' to upgrade. I'll pay that extra £9.00 with a smile on my face. And then resume data consumption at my normal rate from 1st February, staying with my current deal.

I dare say they will bombard me with upgrade-or-die messages. Let 'em. I don't care.      

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