Watch your wireless usage

Richard Charpentier Airstream Blogs, Notes from Rich Leave a Comment

Finally I’ve resolved the issue with network connectivity.  But I thought I’d share part of the story prior to my own resolution as a warning to others.  Be careful folks, if you’ve got a bandwidth cap you might find yourself with overages quickly.

The night before departing from WV / OH was spent at the Airstream.  Going over everything once more, packing the Airstream up as best as I could, etc.  And while working away all day long I decided to stop for an hour and watch the final episode of “Fringe.”  While in WV I had a broadband connection with Suddenlink, and found myself watching Netflix regularly.  And yes, I got totally hooked on Fringe.

Well, I was literally down to the last episode before departing for the West, and I figured I’d go ahead and watch it at the Airstream as a treat for the afternoon.  I have a Verizon 4G LTE Mi-Fi hotspot with a 10GB a month plan.  From 06 – 2012 I had an unlimited data plan with Verizon.  I was one of those lucky guys who got in on the plan when the first 1x cards were out there.  And I finally gave up that plan when I upgraded to 4G LTE.

The last episode from Fringe was pretty cool, and I was happy with the way the writers wrapped up the story.  But minutes after finishing the show I was very unhappy.  The Mi-Fi device chirped at me.  My IPhone chirped at me.  Both devices had a message for me.  I had used half of my month’s bandwidth in the space of less than an hour.


Now for the average user panic might ensue.  In total, the Mi-Fi device claimed I used over 6.5 GB of bandwidth in under an hour.  But I knew that was wrong….so very wrong.

Immediately I went to my Activity Monitor on my Macbook Pro and took a look at what the data told me.  A little over 350MB of usage.  Not 6.5GB.  Talk about a discrepancy.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 3.28.09 PM

On a Mac Activity Monitor can show you your bandwidth usage from your last reboot. I haven’t rebooted this laptop in days, and still under 1GB of usage on the network.

Of course, I got on the phone with Verizon, and after an hour of picking the right menu, hold time, etc, I got a live person to talk to me.  She was very pleasant, saw the data usage recording, and began suggesting what could have caused it.

Background updates on your computer?  No.  All updates are manual since I’m using 4G.

Programs using bandwidth that you don’t know about?  No, I’ve got my activity monitor up right now and here’s what it says.

Other computers on your network?  No, the device only showed one connection and it’s password protected.

Wrong settings on Netflix?  No.  I specifically went to the website to make sure I was set for the lowest settings possible on video streaming.

After wrangling on the phone forever we finally got to a good point.  A 3GB credit on my bill.  So, in under an hour I was dinged for 3.5GB even though my computer told me the real bandwidth usage.

Something fishy is going on

After that incident I was very cautious about using the Mi-Fi hotspot.  My billing cycle wasn’t up for weeks, and in an hour I had nuked some hefty bandwidth.  And there was never any resolution about what happened.  Something wrong with their metrics system maybe?  I’ve heard / read this time and again.

I did experiment a little though and found some interesting stuff.  One morning after arriving in Prescott I booted up the computer to check my statistics for The Airstream Chronicles, and to check the numbers over at La Mesa RV Park.  I was on for about a half hour just looking at stats.  Not bandwidth intensive at all.  And in that time frame?

Over 1GB of usage showed up on the Mi-Fi device.  On my Activity Monitor I registered a little over 30MB.  Huge difference.

So yeah, something flaky is up.

Back in the world of unlimited…..

Fortunately I’m back in the world of unlimited usage, so the issue doesn’t really impact me any longer.  However, I just wanted to warn folks out there to watch their usage closely.  You could get a huge bill if you don’t!

Years ago there was an “unlimited bandwidth” offer associated with the Verizon IPhone. The offer only lasted a few short weeks.   That’s when I got my first and only IPhone.  And I found out recently that if I bought a 4G LTE IPhone 5 at cost rather than “upgrading” I could retain my unlimited bandwidth and tether the IPhone to my computers.  So that’s exactly what I did.  The up front cost was painful, but I’ll save that money on data plans in a few months time.

Fair warning all, if you’re using 4G as your primary network connection on the road, watch that usage.  Oh, and I will never give up my unlimited on the IPhone like I did on my ancient 1X card……never!

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