Bumper Broadband Bills

This article was provided to Children Webmag and is included in case any readers face broadband problems this summer.

With the school summer holidays almost upon us, home internet usage is set to soar, and if you’re not careful you could find yourself with a rather nasty bill at the end of the holiday period, and worse still, the discovery that you’ve been party to illegal file sharing.

How clued up are you on what your child is up to online? What are they downloading? How much are they downloading and is it legal? This article gives some advice to parents of child-surfers on how they can prepare their broadband for the summer period, not only by ensuring that bills don’t mount up but more importantly that illegal file sharing isn’t on the agenda.

It’s important for parents to remember that although they may think their broadband is ‘unlimited’ most have a fair usage policy, so make sure you understand how much you can use and how the provider measures it. Do they count both upload and download traffic, or just the download? Does the provider automatically bill you if you go over the usage allowance or will they slow down the connection affecting the rest of your family? How can you control and monitor it?

Check you’re on the right kind of package. If you’re not tied into a contract you may be able to switch to a cheaper provider that gives you a higher usage allowance for your money. Check the usage allowance – if you are tied into a contract with a provider that only gives you a small allowance, then you may be able to buy extra allowance in advance; this is often cheaper than paying for any extra used afterwards. Check the expiry period for this extra allowance (it usually only lasts a month).

Watch your usage. Look out for usage alert e-mails from your ISP which may warn you that you are approaching your usage limit. Consider installing a download monitor: this will allow you to easily keep tabs on the amount of content being downloaded. A free broadband usage meter is available from the thinkbroadband website to help you keep track of usage.

If you use mobile broadband, keep an even closer eye on your usage. Many network operators charge high rates for extra bandwidth once you exceed your inclusive allowance on your mobile phone or USB dongle.

Talk to your children. It’s important that children understand the behaviour that is expected of them when they are online. Make it clear that using the Internet to share copyrighted music and films is not permitted and could result in you being taken to court by copyright-holders. Consider getting a subscription to a music service such as Spotify to promote legitimate use of the Internet for listening to music.

Check your wireless network is secure. If you do not have adequate security on your wireless network, your connection could be used to download illegal content without your knowledge by neighbours or even anyone sitting in a car outside. Check your wireless router supports and is configured to use the latest wireless security protocols such as WPA2. Note that WEP encryption or MAC Address restrictions are not sufficient.

Check that your anti-virus and malware software is up-to-date: This is a useful opportunity to check that you have up-to-date software to protect your family from threats online. There are free anti-virus packages from companies like AVG or many reasonably prices alternatives widely available in shops. If you’re with TalkTalk, enable their recently introduced network-level anti-virus service for additional protection.

Sebastien Lahtinen is co-founder of thinkbroadband, an advisory service on the use of broadband. See http://www.thinkbroadband.com for more information.

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