Pending data limits loom over our iLifestyles
Published: Monday, August 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 2, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.
It was an email that nearly knocked the wind out of me. My apparent friends at the cable company took time to let me know that I had exceeded my allotment of Internet data for the month. Didn't even know there was a limit. Then I remembered what the cell companies did: They got me hooked on the product and then put a cap on it once I was addicted.
Data is becoming the new smack and the dealers are out to get their cheddar.
In fairness, the email quickly pointed out that there was no overage charge associated, and they just wanted to let me know. Uh huh. Such a courteous gesture, but, of course, something smells fishy in this creek. After a little clicking around, I found a statement saying my provider “does not currently” charge for overages.
Excuse me for stating the obvious — how long is this generosity going to last?
Now that I have four televisions — all streaming content from Netflix, Amazon and Vudu — two laptops, a desktop and various tablets and mobile devices, I am starting to notice a pattern.
A) I have a sick technology addiction. B) The Witzels are going to start reading a whole lot more books if our Wi-Fi gets capped.
This already happened with the cellphones. Our family got fat and happy on the unlimited data plan, watching videos at will and streaming music to our hearts desire. Then came D-Day and the tiered-usage plan. Now three of us are sharing 2 gigs of data each month. That is the equivalent of a family sharing a single bottle of water as they walk across the desert.
I decided to do what any concerned addict does and take my shaky and withdrawal-ridden fingers and do a Google search. What are other providers doing? Are they putting caps on data and charging for overages? The answers are not pretty, my friends. The metered models are coming (in my best Paul Revere voice)!
Since I am not qualified to separate the technical wheat from the chaff, I will let you investigate on your own whether it actually costs providers more money to service heavy data users. On the surface, most opinions say no.
I am qualified, however, to point out the elephant in the room: Cable cutters, those who are switching from traditional channels to Internet streaming, are growing exponentially. Do you think cable companies are joyful about losing subscribers only to have to pump loads of data from competitors like Netflix into the same homes? Is this payback? Nobody is going to exceed their cap by surfing emails and playing FarmTown. This is about streaming entertainment, and cable companies have a unique way of halting the free ride of video streaming competitors.
Still, as somebody who already pays upward of $50 a month for cable data, I cannot help but ask, how much more is sufficient? Where does it end? Heck, Netflix streaming is not that great anyway. I mean you can only watch “Top Gun” and “Top Chef” so many times. I already feel guilty for the stacks of unread books.
The reality is I am not going to pay more for data. If the data monopoly sends me to data jail, I will probably just adhere to the limit. No more free lunch.
For now, those of us not being penalized for exceeding our data allotments, we should probably just rejoice. Someday we can sit in a rocking chair and tell our grandkids that back in our day, we got to use as much data as we wanted. Just as we were told how our grandparents paid for their weekly groceries for less than a dollar.
Times, they are a changin'.
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