Understanding Metered Internet

Metered internet is a service model in which you are charged for your Internet/bandwidth usage (usually measured in gigabytes used per month) instead of having an uncapped or unlimited data plan. In such models, customers are required to select a service tier or package that charges a certain amount of money for a specified amount of data transfer or bandwidth usage every month. If you exceed your data caps, you are charged additional fees, usually per additional gigabyte of data sent or received.

Metered connections came about as a solution to the problem of growing bandwidth demand in the face of limited bandwidth supply. Other solutions to the same problem include traffic shaping (also known as bandwidth throttling), in which the connections of specific users or applications are slowed by the provider.

The general idea behind metering is that you should only have to pay for the bandwidth or data transmission that you actually use. This allows consumers to make the choice that best suits their usage needs, thereby better allocating the limited supply of bandwidth.

When discussing metered solutions, it is also important to note that ISPs, as resellers of bandwidth and connectivity, are themselves motivated to charge based on usage. Many ISPs ration connectivity using a capped/quota/metered system to avoid having to pay to expand capacity to meet the connectivity needs of their clients during peak times, as this would require potentially expensive backend updates to manage billing. Customer complaints and help desk tickets are also more likely.

The maintenance costs of internet networks increase with usage as well, which is another reason that many ISPs began offering usage-based plans for home and business users, much like data and minutes plans provided by mobile/cellular service companies.

While metered Internet makes sense for ISPs, it also makes sense for consumers – at least at a high level. For some lower-use consumers, the price of Internet usage per unit of data consumed may seem lower with unlimited plans, but they do not use enough data to actually save money with these plans. This is because many Internet service companies set their prices based on average high usage and low usage benchmarks, so if you have an unlimited plan but only have light Internet usage, you are really subsidizing the plans of other, heavy-usage consumers.

The question remains, though: should you use a metered connection? Why or why not?

Benefits of Metered Internet

The primary benefit of using a metered connection is that you can choose a plan with the data limits that work for you based on your home or business needs. If you do not need to share large files or stream music or video and do not have many concurrent Internet users, it might make sense to have a metered network and save on the flat-rate charges of an unlimited plan. You will only have to pay for the data you use, meaning you will not effectively share the cost of everyone’s Internet usage by paying the average usage benchmark price. There are, however, a few drawbacks to using a metered connection, which we discuss later in this post.

Setting Up a Metered Network

Using a metered connection will not affect your everyday Internet experience; the only things that change are the amounts of data you can transfer during the month and how your OS will work with a metered connection.

In Windows, to set your connection as metered, go to “Settings,” open “Network & Internet,” and then go to “Wi-Fi.” Choose your active wireless connection (you cannot proceed unless you are connected to a network) and navigate to the “Metered connection” section. Turn the button on, and once you do, you can view the usage per app, set data limits, and choose whether or not to restrict background data to help control data usage over Wi-Fi.

Once you are on a metered connection in Windows:

  • Windows will only download critical updates. You will see a download button for other updates that you can then choose to install or ignore.
  • Offline file syncing may be paused.
  • Microsoft Store apps will no longer be automatically updated, but your desktop apps will run as usual.
  • App tiles on the Start Menu may not update automatically.
  • Some apps may behave differently since they may have to stop downloading data in the background, or they may have to update their data less frequently.

When to Choose a Metered Network

While cost savings are a big reason to go for a metered connection, price is not the only factor to consider when choosing between metered and uncapped plans. Security, dependability, and update hassles are other considerations.

Some of the possible disadvantages of a metered connection are as follows:

  • Your system may not download and install important security patches and updates.
  • You may end up with different file versions because of delayed syncing between your system and your cloud drive.
  • Some apps may function differently based on the updates you have and the latest versions of apps or platforms that you use.

Microsoft recommends using a metered connection if your ISP places caps on your data usage, but you can also choose a metered connection if you have a slow connection. For example, laptops and tablets that run Windows 10 with an integrated mobile data connection will automatically have those connections set as metered.

Manage Your Bandwidth Usage

Keep an eye on your bandwidth usage to make sure you are saving by using a metered connection. Your ISP may provide such a service via, for example, a web page that provides customers with usage statistics. You can also track your usage yourself, although doing so across multiple devices on a single network and across many different types of devices may be challenging. Remember, though, that accurately assessing your usage and needs before switching to a metered network is important if you are to benefit from making the switch.

Other ways in which you can save bandwidth are by lowering your video streaming quality and by installing a click-to-play plugin that can help save the data used by auto-play ads and Flash content on websites you visit. You may also schedule downloads so that updates and downloads do not throttle your connection when everyone is online (scheduling downloads also makes sense if you have high vs. low traffic times with variable data usage charges). Download managers are another great way to help plan and schedule system-critical updates and other downloads, helping you to save on bandwidth usage without sacrificing system security.

Final Thoughts

The case for or against a metered connection really comes down to the cost savings you stand to enjoy from switching from an uncapped/unlimited plan to a metered plan and the kinds of apps, devices, and security that you and those on your network use.

Use a metered connection to save on costs if you are not a heavy Internet user and whenever you are on the Internet with a smartphone or a mobile data hotspot. Home Internet connections that are limited or capped may also benefit from a metered connection, and it can make sense to set your connection to metered if you have a slow Internet connection, as background data transfers will be stopped and unexpected updates that can consume limited bandwidth will not occur.

For further assistance with selecting the right plan for you, or to learn more about how to set up a secure and performant business network, speak with a Kajeet Solutions Engineer by visiting https://www.kajeet.net/contact-us/.