Recently Australia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been competing heavily for new customers, with their main focus being on how much data they provide with their broadband plans. Growing exponentially, we can now see plans offering 500GB, 1 Terabyte, or truly unlimited plans that are never slowed down. How are the broadband providers able to do this?

One of the answers to this question comes from the fact that ISPs are now regressing into the older paradigm of charging for both uploads and downloads. For a fair while an important selling point for a plan was that it only counted downloads towards your monthly data quota. All uploading was free. However, this structure has now been subverted by the supply of higher numbers of GB.

If you’re a person who does a lot of uploading on the internet, the higher number of GB you are signing up to could prove to be obsolete, as everything you now do online is counted towards your monthly data usage quota.

This looks like a scheme created by the ISPs in order to combat heavy users who do massive amounts of peer-to-peer file sharing (uploading and downloading of movies, music and TV shows), online gaming, VoIP or Skype audio and video calls, and those who upload large numbers of images, photos and video clips onto their Facebook, YouTube, or MySpace pages.

All these actions use large amounts of upload data, and used to be free on most plans in the broadband market. Therefore, if you used to be on an ADSL2+ broadband plan that gave you 70GB in peak time and 60GB in off-peak, but which only counted downloads towards your monthly data limit, your new 90GB peak and 90GB off-peak plan may in all actuality be very similar to what you used to have, because your uploads are now being counted. Or, it could even be worse.

Don’t be fooled by a high number of GB in your data quota. iPrimus, Exetel and Dodo still only charge for downloads on their broadband plans, while TPG doesn't charge for uploads on its Naked DSL or ADSL1 plans. TPG counts uploads on its ADSL2+ stand-alone plans, as well as its Home Phone bundles.

One thing to keep in mind is that if your plan does have a massive amount of data included, all of this may prove irrelevant, because your combined upload and download usage falls way below your monthly allowance. If you are not a heavy internet user, a large number of GB will ensure you always have a fast and cheap broadband connection.

Figure out what type of internet user you are, and choose you new broadband plan wisely. Excess charges are no fun, as is the feeling you get when your connection suddenly slows down from as much as 24,000kbps, to as low as 64kbps, depending on your plan’s shaping speeds.