Managing your broadband usage quota

When you sign up to a new broadband internet plan you will be given a set amount of data, which could be split into downloads and uploads, or may be counted all together. In order to make sure your plan doesn’t incur excess charges, or get slowed down (shaped) early on in the month, you can use these methods to keep an eye on your broadband quota.

Choosing the right broadband plan for your style of internet usage

First, you’ll need to figure out how you use the internet, or what you intend to do online with your new broadband connection. Ask several different Internet Service Providers' (ISPs) sales consultants their opinions about how much data they think you’ll need.

You can also do some of your own calculations. For instance, if downloading a two-hour movie takes 0.7GB of data, and you want to download around ten films per month, you know you’ll need 7GB on top of your other avenues of using internet data.

Try and find a plan that suits your unique data usage style. Signing up to a light users’ plan with 3GB in peak time will not be suitable for someone who intends to do anything more than simple email, banking, or web surfing online.

On the other side of the equation, there is no need to sign up to a 500GB plan unless you live in a home with around four computers whose users partake in a mixture of streaming online TV, talking on Skype, uploading photos onto Facebook and videos onto YouTube, downloading music and movies, or playing online video games. Choose a plan with your unique style of internet usage in mind.

Check your usage rates daily, or at least regularly

All the ISPs will have a way you can access your account information on its website, some of which are updated daily, and others hourly. You’ll be able to analyse your personal usage rates for peak and off-peak times, over the entire month, and in some cases by time of day. Once you get an idea of how your household is using the broadband connection, you can then adjust your habits accordingly.

Use opportunities to access your ISP’s free data services

Many ISPs offer free data as part of their service. For example, iPrimus (1300 137 794) offers ‘Unmetered data’ to several websites, including ABC iView, which allows you to watch TV and access other data without this usage being included in your plan’s quota.

iiNet (1300 106 571) has Freezone, which lets you access numerous sites for free, including video games from the Barclays Premier League, and purchases from the iTunes Store (Australia) like iPhone games, songs, movies and audio books. All of these can be downloaded without having to pay for the data transferral.

If your ISP offers unmetered content, it’s in your interest to check out the services available because anything you do there will not get counted towards your monthly quota. If the main thing you do online is watch catch-up TV on ABC iView, you could go on a relatively light users’ plan with any ISP providing this website’s data for free.

Make use of your overnight off-peak data period

The majority of broadband plans on the market are split into on and off-peak time periods. If your plan falls into this category, you’ll want to make good use of the off-peak time period, which usually occurs overnight. Find out how to set up your computer so it automatically downloads movies, TV shows, or music on a timer.

Many broadband plans’ off-peak data limits are much larger than their on-peak counterparts. You’ll be happy to wake up to your computer being packed full of great new songs and films for you to experience during waking hours. Find out when your plan’s off-peak period is and plan your heavy download usage around its window of opportunity.

Note: If you are in Western Australia it could be a good idea to sign up to a broadband plan from an ISP on the east coast, as its plans’ off-peak periods will be based around EST. Instead of having 12am-12pm to do lots of downloads, you could end up with 9pm-9am, which means late at night you may be able to watch online TV during your off-peak period.

Keep an eye on the date your plan resets for the next month

It’s logical to keep an eye out for this date, as it will let you know when your next month’s data quota will begin. This will help you both to temper your usage earlier on in the month, as well as giving you an idea near the end of the current monthly period when you’ll have extra data to use for larger downloads.

Monthly reset dates are different with each ISP, so find out early on when yours will be. You’ll probably discover this date often correlates with the day the broadband provider deducts money from your account via direct debit.