In The Age today an article about Telstra Bigpond users having ridiculous bills for exceeding download limits when they believe they are doing far from that or even if they computers and modems off.
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Nigel Hopkinson said he was disputing a charge of $8562.31 for 73GB of excess data use. The apparent usage was recorded by BigPond between midnight and 5.07am on May 10. He received an automatic email at 8.53am from BigPond, advising his account reached 175 per cent of his monthly 60GB usage allowance. He had left his computer and modem on, he said. Other customers that have been affected by excess data usage claimed to have turned their computers and modems off.
“I had no software running that would cause this and I do not believe with my connection speed, that it is even technically possible,” Mr Hopkinson said.
Another BigPond customer, Eian Mathieson, who is on a 25GB-a-month plan, said he began to worry about his account usage after having gone over the limit two months in a row.
Mathieson downloaded a metering tool, Netmeter, to measure his usage patterns. On one day, BigPond metering recorded more than five times the usage Netmeter reported, he said. On May 27, the BigPond meter showed he had used 1768MB, whereas Netmeter showed 342.6MB for that same day. The next day, the BigPond meter displayed 1650MB of usage and Netmeter recorded 358.62MB, Mr Mathieson said.
Well, add me to the long list of customers with this complaint about BigPond. I am on a 60GB per month plan which I went on a year ago because we seemed to be exceeding our 30GB and I didn’t want to worry about it. The problem is that we now seem to be reaching that limit too. Finally, I woke up and thought about it: how?
We download lots of TV and movies from iTunes but adding that up, it was clear it could not exceed 10GB in a month. There is plenty of YouTube viewing but even there it was hard to image it exceeding 2 or 3GB per month. Where was the rest of it given that we are all out of the house during the day? I tried an experiment switching off the WiFi just in case it was the neighbours, but the meter kept on ticking away. Surely that amount of downloads each month would be noticable on a hard drive somewhere but it was no-where to be seen.
I started to monitor usage closely. Since there are several computers network meters were fine but over-stated usage as they included file transfers. But even with this, they were way under what Telstra’s usage meter was reporting. So I rang technical support. We considered viruses but two things ruled that out: (i) there were no PCs in the house, only Macs and (ii) it was all downloads, with hardly any uploads. Actually, the upload rate seemed high to me but there was a vast asymmetry. I suspect that told them that no computer had been hijacked to send out illicit material and also that I wasn’t downloading illegally and getting into trouble on reciprocal uploads. So that month they reset my limit so I didn’t get extra charges.
But what to do? Telstra’s usage meter doesn’t get the time right so even when we switched it all off for a day it still recorded usage (an incredible 200MB!). So I can’t just monitor stuff for a day, send it to them and say, ah ha! I would have to do it for a week or more which would mean limiting to one computer and a big disruption. So I monitor the usage meter because, believe it or not, our usage is correlated with that and so close to the end of the month we lay off the iTunes, iView and YouTube.
This article has given me pause and I may make another call to BigPond support, or is it billing? I recall they had trouble working out which department was to blame.