Next time you’re unsure if you’ve exceeded your download limit, don’t wait for a call from your internet service provider – you may be waiting a long time. Unfortunately, you have to actively monitor how much data you’ve downloaded yourself.

If you exceed your download limit, there are two ways your provider may penalise you: the first is to charge you for extra downloads, and the other way is to ‘shape’ your speed. Shaping is when your service provider slows down your download speed, usually to about 256kbps, but this depends on which data plan you are signed up to.

Most service providers will see it as your responsibility as the account holder to monitor your download usage by checking your account online. This is done by logging into your account via the service provider’s website using a specified user name and password. Be aware when you check your usage online there may be a 24-48 hour delay, with data roaming activity taking longer to reach the account.

If you have regular ADSL or ADSL2+ broadband, most companies will ‘shape’ your speed rather than charge you for extra downloads. You can check this in the terms and conditions of your contract.

If you use mobile wireless broadband to connect to the internet – a little USB modem (dongle) you plug into your computer, then chances are you will get charged if you exceed your download limit. Currently only iPrimus slow down your speed on a mobile wireless broadband connection.

The most important thing to remember is telecommunications companies will not cut off your post-paid mobile wireless account if you reach your included monthly download limit – that’s prepaid! However, they may send you a text or bar the account if you have downloaded a lot more than usual (but don’t rely on it!). While it can be frustrating if your wireless broadband is barred, it is the plan provider’s way of ensuring that you are aware of the high activity on your account, and to make sure things do not get out of hand.

I’ve already gone over my download limit! What do I do?

If you’ve exceeded your download limit and your speed has already slowed down, unfortunately you will have to wait until the next month’s billing cycle for your broadband to be up and running at decent speeds again. The next month’s cycle might not be the first of the month – you can check when it is either on your online account, on your bill, or by calling your provider’s customer service centre.

If you receive a nasty surprise on your bill due to exceeding your download limit, unfortunately there may be no other choice but to pay the bill, and to promise to keep an eye on your usage from now on.

If you find you are exceeding your download limit often, it may be time to accept you need to move to a higher data plan. Internet service providers will generally let you move up to the next plan at no cost and without having to reset your contract length.