How Much Bandwidth Usage Attracts Notice?

A note to the mods: I presume this is a question with a factual answer, but I suppose it might vary somewhat and could be better suited for a different forum.

The title says it all - how much bandwidth do you have to use before you achieve some degree of (unwanted) notoriety with ISPs? I recently downloaded and installed a bandwidth monitor out of curiosity, and now that I can see how much I’m using I’m even more curious to know where the threshold lies. I watch a lot of youtube videos, listen to streaming radio, etc, and so I’ve found that I burn through quite a lot.

Your service provider will list any limits for your account in the user agreement. It’s different for every provider. Some will throttle the account, others will charge you extra, and some don’t have a limit.

Some say they don’t have a limit until you exceed a secret magic number and all of a sudden you’re being throttled. It’s Comcastic!

The Consumerist has a good article on the same topic. Utterly, utterly Comcastic.

Actually, Comcast is no longer a good example of the “unlimited until we tell you otherwise” group of ISPs.

At the beginning of this month, Comcast introduced a 250Gb/month limit for its customers.

Consumerist story

Since the 1st of October, my computer has been on 15 to 20 hours a day thank to the labor dispute between a big airplane company and it’s union. I have spent many of those hours on the internet, much of it downloading and uploading various things and lots of general surfing the net. I also use Magic Jack for my home phone, this also uses bandwidth. I have used 17.1 Gb since the 1st. I seriously doubt the 250 Gb limit will ever come into play for me.

Yeah, 250Gb is a lot.

But despite all the handwringing about the transmission of copyrighted materials over BitTorrent and other forms of filesharing, the fact is that these days it’s actually not difficult to bust that sort of cap with perfectly legal downloading. This is especially true if you have a reasonably fast connection.

Take Netflix, for example. Members can stream movies straight from the Netflix website to their computer, and for fast connections the stream rate is over 2 megabits per second. This works out at somewhere around 1Gb per hour, or about 2Gb for a 2-hour movie. Now, it’s probably unlikely that most people are going to spend 250 hours a month watching movies on their computer, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

And this is only one of dozens of ways that you can rack up your bandwidth, including streaming music, online gaming, and downloading large files from websites like the Library of Congress American Memory site.

Not only that, but the spread of high-speed connections has led to website inflation, with many, many sites these days have bloated homepages with bandwidth-hogging flash animations and similar eye candy. While browsing these pages probably isn’t going to get you anywhere near 250Gb, when considered alongside all the high-bandwidth media uses available, it can quickly add up.

Especially if the connection is for a home LAN shared among 4-5 people, all of whom have their own computers and all of whom like to veg out on YouTube every so often.

To be sure advertised caps are OK. Secret caps for what is advertised as an unlimited service are, well, Comcastic.

At least you guys get access to plenty of data. I pay my NZ$30 odd a month; plus $3 per Gb. That was ok as in the past I rarely exceeded 1 Gb. Now, I think I’m going to need to look into a better plan as I’m going through 2 or 3 Gb a month.

As noted above some websites now have huge slow loading homepages, including one I visit regularly for auto sparky stuff. I might as well get them to send me their dead tree catalogue; it’d save me time and money!

I made a trip home to visit friends and family in Australia in July, and i also visited a good friend who lives in Wellington, and once again i was amazed at the high prices and the awfully low transfer allowances of down under ISPs.

My friend in Sydney pays over $40 a month for her internet connection, and for that she gets 3mbps, and a total download allowance of 6Gb a month. That 6Gb is further limited by time, with 2Gb allowed during peak times (noon-midnight), and 4Gb in off-peak (midnight to noon). Once she reaches those numbers, her connection is throttled back to dial-up speeds.

Contrast that to my plan here, where i pay $43 a month, and get 9mbps speeds and basically unlimited downloads. This evening, i was working at my computer, and while i worked on one monitor, on the other i watched Silence of the Lambs and Mississippi Burning from Netflix. Those two films alone used up about 4Gb. That’s two-thirds of my Sydney friend’s monthly allowance in four hours.

Can anyone recommend a good bandwidth monitor? I’d assume I use somewhere around 100gb/month on average, but am not sure how to tell.

Is there any way to monitor bandwidth at the router (Linksys 310N) or cable modem itself? We have a few computers on the network and a digital media streamer in the den. Do we have to install on every machine? What about boxes (like the media streamer) that we can’t directly access the OS?

Heck, if I’m under vague threat of large overages or service termination, I’d even be willing to shell out a few bucks if there was something that sat between my modem and the jack.

Australia has a few good ISPs these days, you can get a pretty good deal if you look around. But you really do need to keep track of your downloads as going over the limit can really bugger you up. I have a Firefox extension that does that for me, designed here in AU especially for our ISPs.

New Zealand, though, is still stuck in the stone age of broadband. Technology-wise, NZ has been stagnant for at least a decade. They have only just got digital TV! Craaaazy!

America has got it good with their internet, and they don’t know how lucky they are. As far as I know, Japan is the only country that has it better.

Actually, i think you’ll find that quite a few western European countries do just as well as the US, if not better. I’ve seen people online from the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, and the Scandinavian countries, who are getting download speeds between 20 and 60Mbps.

There’s a reason why Australians call it “fraudband”.

That’s assuming you can even get Broadband. There are entire suburbs of major cities here without any sort of wired broadband connection, and wireless broadband is bloody expensive and not terribly reliable…

I use DU Meter but it’s not free. $25 will buy you a single license and $50 will let you put it on up to 5 computers. Looking over at I see some freeware called BitMeter which looks similar.

There’s a program called NetWorx that prompted me to start this thread. It seems to be a little bare bones, but it does what it advertises - tracks your bandwidth usage in daily, weekly and monthly increments. It’s completely free, too.