In the mail this week was a letter from my ISP, Suddenlink. They had Good News!™ They were magically increasing my Internet speed for FREE! FREE!!!!! I should have known something was awry when the letter said that I was going from 150 Mbps to 200. I never had 150. It also noted that I now had a 550 GB monthly allowance on data.
When I signed up for my original plan, there might have been a cap – I honestly can’t remember – but it was high enough, especially compared to the maximum theoretical speed, that I wouldn’t ever realistically run into it. I certainly never have.
But still… A cap. A meter. A pair of digital handcuffs. Something that restricts me. I hate that. It’s like the speed governing chip on my car. Am I ever really going to drive more than 135 mph? Not on purpose. But knowing that the engine could do much more and is being artificially limited because of some nanny-minded bean-counter just itches. I do the occasional Netflix binge. I move big data files to my remote servers. I work from home on occasion. Add to that the newly announced Wi-Fi calling from AT&T and my shiny new 1TB Dropbox plan, and this data-cap thing gets a tiny bit worrisome, even beyond the itch.
I hopped online to read about the change (burning my now precious bandwidth to do so) and learned that Suddenlink has rolled out Gigabit ethernet to my town. Huzzah! Never mind that my router would probably cook an egg at those speeds or that I doubt I’d ever use the burst (or be talking to a server that could provide it), it’s more. It’s more than more, it’s MOAR in the parlance of the day. And moar is better. And it’s only $100 or so a month.
I’m already paying $100 or so a month.
I called Suddenlink. The automated system can’t connect my phone number with my account. Doesn’t matter, the service people always make me repeat all of that information anyway. I say “representative” five more times until I stop to listen (because options have changed) and say “add or change services.” Ten minutes with something worse than hold music. It’s hold music interspersed with cheerful people shouting the wonders of Suddenlink.
Martin answers the phone. Martin looks up my info. Martin tries to sell me the cable and phone bundle for $60 or the cable only bundle for $50. “Now which of those sounds better to you?” Nice try with the sales psychology, Martin.
I tell Martin that the last thing I need is another thing in my house ringing and that I haven’t had cable for 5 years. I hear the three-ring binder softly close with a whuff of disappointment. Martin looks at my account again and says it looks like the plan I’m on is no longer offered and that for only about $20 more each month, I can get Gigabit ethernet with the 550 GB cap. I note that the letter I got says I already have a 550 GB cap. Martin tells me, no, it’s actually a 450 GB cap.
I tell Martin that I’ll have to research my actual usage with their system and then decide what to do, but in the meantime, what is the new price of my 200 Mbps service? “About $75.” “Great, let’s do that for now, then.” “I’m sorry, but I can’t change that for you, I’m going to have to send you over to our retention department.”
The hold music and Stepford community players return.
Jared answers the phone. Martin has told Jared… nothing. I go through the entire story again. Jared says he can get me Gigabit for $120 or 200 Mbps for $75. I clarify the data caps. He notes that I can buy additional data up front for a small additional fee. I pass. During the hold music I’ve done a quick scan of my usage history and it’s not so bad. I can probably deal with 450 GB, especially for $30 less each month.
My inner CFO and CIO teamed up and hit my inner geek with a bar of soap wrapped in a sock: “$30 a month is $360 a year. That’s a big chunk of a PS4.” “Ok, 1GB speed. Do you have the backbone in place? How many devices are going to need that speed? Most of the house is on Wi-Fi. The 550 GB cap is silly for a connection that fast.”*
My inner geek slinks away in defeat. Moar is better, but moar will have to wait.
*I have more to say on both the data cap and how I decided I was probably ok within it, but that’s a story for another post.