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Getting the Most Out of Your Data Plan

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If you use the internet for much more than e-mail and light web-surfing, you could exceed your data cap now and then.  If you do, your internet service provider (ISP) ‘throttles’ your data transfer. Pages load for you much more slowly than before, and downloading music or video may be impossible. How can you prevent this?

First, it may help you to know why your ISP imposes data caps. With only so much bandwidth available, your provider has to ration the amount it allots to  each customer. Most ISPs offer several service tiers, with higher monthly fees for plans with higher data caps and higher speeds. If you use more in a given month than your plan allows, the ISP will slow your data transfer speeds dramatically, and they will remain low until you buy more data capacity, or your next monthly service period begins.

One obvious way to remain within your data cap is to avoid playing interactive games, music, or video. This is a drastic step, though. Access to such services may be the reason you bought internet service to begin with.

There are other, less painful ways to get the most out of your data allotment. Here are a few:

1:  Assess your household’s needs.    How many people will be connected at any one time? How many devices do you have? Will you be using the internet to conduct business? Does anyone in your household play interactive games?  Do you often download music or videos? Do you often upload graphics or video to social media? How many web pages do you visit in a day? All of these factors will affect the amount of data you use.

2:  Evaluate your current provider.    Choose an ISP able to provide the data capacity you need. Dial-up service, and most DSL service, is too slow to be practical for any purpose other than e-mail and light web-surfing. For other functions, you will need a cable, fiber, satellite, or LTE WiFi connection.

3:  Consider using a different browser.    Google Chrome is usually  faster than other browsers, but it requires more data. This is primarily because Chrome scans your e-mail and browsing history for keywords, which it uses for targeted ads. This is not only a potential invasion of privacy, it can take you to your data plan’s limits more quickly. If getting the most from your allotment is more important than saving one or two seconds on a search, you may want to try a different browser.

4:  Whenever possible, disable or close auto-play videos.   Adobe Flash is an especially egregious offender. Hit your browser’s ‘settings’ tab, then bring up ‘privacy’. From there, go to ‘plug-ins’. In Chrome, you will find an option to manage individual plug-ins, with a list of the most common ones. There you can disable Adobe Flash. If you want to watch a video that runs on Flash, you can go to the same tab to enable it as needed. Be sure to disable it again after each use. This won’t block all auto-play video, but it will block the majority. This not only saves data, you won’t have to listen to annoying ads- not nearly as often, anyway.

5:  Limit the number of tabs you keep open.    If you have more than one tab open at a time, data-intensive photos, video, or ads may  be loading in the ones you’re not looking at.

6:  Use your browser’s data saver extension.   Almost every browser features a data saver extension. This compresses video, pictures, and other large files. Some ISPs claim that the extension can reduce data consumption by up to 70% on certain devices, though in our experience it’s 15% to 20%. Usually this extension will be filed under ‘apps’. If you cans find it, look up “data saver extension for (your browser)”. Your search will reveal a two-or-three-step process for finding it. Downloading the extension will take only a few seconds. You can easily disable it if you want to.

7:   Talk to us.    If your ISP disappoints you, we can help you find another provider better suited for your needs. We are an independent clearing house for all major providers, so we can give you an objective assessment of each one. Compare all providers and plans. Then order any service with just one phone call.


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