What We Pay for Data

Even the most sophisticated of mobile customers can be tripped up — people like Paul DeBeasi, a research vice president at Gartner specializing in wireless technology. He said that he once streamed a Netflix movie to his iPad and was charged extra for exceeding his data plan limit.

Mr. DeBeasi did the math and found that watching two hours of a standard-definition Netflix video consumes two gigabytes — or 2,000 megabytes — of data.

“Even if you’re just watching a standard-definition movie and you’re only watching five movies in a month, it’s costing you $100 just to watch those five movies,” he said. Mr. DeBeasi suggested using Wi-Fi networks whenever possible, as this does not run up your carrier’s data meter.

We are apparently really dumb when it comes to figuring out how much data we can use on our mobile devices before our phone companies start charging us a bunch of money for going over our limit. I had the same flip phone for five years up until six months ago when I was told to get with it and buy an iPhone because I worked at a startup that developed an iPhone app, among other things (miss you $45 a month cellular plan!). I’m paying $90 a month now for 1,400 minutes, unlimited texting and 2 GB of data, and I’ve apparently only used 0.089 of that data 18 days into my plan this month, mostly because I’m always in places where there is wi-fi available, and why would you pay for data when you can get it for free?

We need to get a grip and understand how much our data costs us, just like we made ourselves learn how much electricity costs us in kilowatt hours after we switched to lightbulbs after centuries of lighting our homes with fire. You don’t want to be the lady who opens the mail one day to find a $200,000 phone bill. Can you imagine all the screaming?



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