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Tips on controlling your Internet usage

What is Internet usage?

It's the amount of data your computer sends and receives from the Internet. When you are sending data, such as sending an email or sharing files from your hard drive to other users on the Internet, this is called "uploading". If you are receiving data, such as getting an email, visiting a website, or getting a music file from the Internet, this is called downloading.

Here are some tips on how to control your internet usage:

Prevent unauthorized use of your Internet connection

  • Encrypt or password-protect your wireless home network to prevent unauthorized users from logging into your account
  • If you have your own router, visit your router manufacturer's website to find out how to do this
  • If your Northwestel modem is also your wireless gateway access your Northwestel Control Panel to change your password
  • Install and regularly update your antivirus software
  • Install security updates recommended for your operating system

Limit file sharing programs

Some popular peer-to-peer file sharing programs (e.g., Bit Torrent, U Torrent) will upload shared files to others, by default, as fast as your connection will allow. This activity is often invisible to you, but can accumulate significant usage. Check the program's preferences and ensure the upstream Internet is limited. You will continue uploading the file until it has been deleted from your file sharing program's queue, even if you are done downloading.

Prevent spam

  • Install software to help prevent spam
  • Find effective tools to combat spam

Be aware of streaming video/music use               

  • Turn off streaming video/music players while you're away from your computer. Leaving the program running can generate usage you might not be aware of.

Paid for content still effects your usage

There are numerous online sources, such as Netflix and iTunes that allow you to stream or download movies, television and music for a fee. However, even though you've paid that company to view the content, you still obtain that content online (whether you do so from your PC, game console, tablet, phone or smart TV) which will impact your usage. Even when content is advertised as free, it still affects your usage.

Choose the quality of video you view

The amount of usage from a video can vary considerably depending on the video quality. Some popular websites, like Youtube & Netflix, stream videos anywhere from 144p (lowest) to 4k (highest) and offer the option to change the video quality. The higher the quality setting, the higher the usage. You can significantly reduce your usage by reducing the quality setting.

Check the technical information about bandwidth usage and quality settings on the streaming service website.

Control your Automatic Settings

Be aware of what your devices are doing. Some websites and devices automatically download/upload unless you change their settings. For example, Facebook may automatically play videos, so if you are unaware that someone's page has a video on it, you may end up streaming that video. Visit Facebook's Help Center to find out how to turn off auto-play in your settings. Most iOS devices back up to the cloud automatically. Generally this happens between 2 and 4 am and it can lead to a full back up of your device each night. You can adjust your devices settings if you do not think you need to backup every day.