ABC Tower   ABC Nightlife, 23 November 2007

Tips & Hints

Nightlife 23 November 2007

For the November spot we looked at the problems consumers and small business encounter with their Internet connections. This year's Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's annual report showed complaints about ISP's more than doubled over the previous year.

Finding the right plan isn't an easy task as Internet providers make it difficult to navigate through the maze. To find your way, we'd recommend you read our guide on choosing an ISP and then visit the Broadband Choice to find the right plan for your needs.

Just how bad the problem is was illustrated in the calls we received, plenty of them had horror stories and some had some good advice at avoiding bill shock.

Mobile data bills

Surfing the net on your mobile may be handy, but one of the big growth areas for Telcos is mobile data. Telstra's 2007 report shows growth of nearly 100% in mobile data revenue. Steve learned this the hard way with a $500 bill for using his phone to surf the net.

One of the traps in many "capped" mobile phone plans is that data is not included in the allowances. Before logging on to the Internet through your mobile, it's essential you know what sort of charges are involved. With data rates of up to $1 per megabite, it's quite possible a typical 700Mb movie can cost a whopping $700 to watch on your mobile.

Defining uploads

Deciphering computer jargon is always difficult and Tony called in asking us to define uploads. Basically put, uploading is when you send data from your computer to the net or another computer.

When you use the Internet two things happen; first you upload when you type an address into a web page or ask your mail program to check your email. Your web browser or mail program then downloads the web page or email.

Until recently uploads were tiny compared to downloads, but with programs like peer-to-peer networks and Voice over IP becoming popular many Internet users are uploading as much as they are downloading

As a result of this, most Internet providers have starting including uploads in their data allowances. This means some users can face some big bills when previously they came in under their quotas.

Usage meters

Because of the difficulty with knowing exactly what your usage, Tony asked what you can use to keep an eye on how much of your quota has been used.

All Internet providers will have a usage meter on their websites. You should be able to login and check your usage for the month. Unfortunately some are not as accurate or up to date as we would like.

If you want to keep an eye on individual users or to keep your ISP honest, you'll need a monitoring program to check usage. The best software for doing this is Netlimiter. You can buy this or get the free version.

Respecting your techs

Daniel called to remind us all that call centre employees are very limited in what they can do when you call.

It's important to remember that when you have a problem you are not helping anyone when you lose your cool. This is one of the important tips in our guidelines for how to deal with an ISP dispute. Never be abusive and never make threats to the customer service operator.

If you do find yourself getting nowhere or find your blood pressure rising, then politely hang up and call back later.

Upcoming Nightlfe spots

This Nightlife spot was the last scheduled one for the year. We'll certainly have some spots over the Christmas break and we'll put those schedules up on the website and newsletters.

If you have a suggestion for the show, please contact the producers though the Nightlife website we'd love to get your feedback and find out how we can improve the show for you.
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