Monday, Dec 22, 2014
Dorothy Harris

The debate over data


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A friendly reminder by our wireless company became the catalyst for tense discussion during a leisurely family walk around the block. Mr. Harris started the volley by tossing out a simple advisory that we had hit 90 percent of our data usage and needed to slow down. "If you don't," he reminded, "We'll have big overages on the bill." Our teen reacted with a level of frustration that surprised us both.

As she defended her streaming data usage, her vehemence made me think he had told her there would be no more food in the home or he would now be charging for more than five minutes of showering each day. He then tried to explain the differences between 3G and WIFI and the appropriate times to use each, leading me to shake my head in wonder. Who knew my free-spirited spender would become such a thrifty saver once he took over bill paying? As I've enjoyed his new found financial prowess, I simply listened in so I didn't spoil his thunder. After all, it is refreshing to see him being the bad guy every now and then.

"I need to use data," she insisted, expounding on the ways she keeps up with her generation. Mr. Harris expressed his understanding, but explained he was not about to pay overages or penalties, which I wholeheartedly, albeit silently, agreed. "Can't you email or text your friends," he asked, reminding her it was free and didn't use any of the limited data we pay for. "I need to Instagram," she calmly explained; clearly exasperated we would think teens even bothered with that old email thing.

"Your endless Instagramming is devouring our data plan like a cowboy sucks down a Sonny's sweet tea," Mr. Harris insisted. In my head, I could almost hear my daughter retorting, "Tell the waitress to bring us a pitcher then because we are some thirsty diners."

Things started getting tense so I jumped in to remind I too was using data, although not at the level of the teen. Unfortunately for her, but perhaps beneficial to me, is our bill shows us exactly who uses what, when and for how long. It was great to track the texting issue, but data is a whole other animal. How much data is too much? How reasonable is the amount being allocated to each of us? Why does Instagramming use data anyway?

I almost have to wonder if the popularity of these applications is promoted simply to ensure we pay as much as possible to the wireless carriers. Is it just a coincidence that as soon as something becomes free, say for example, texting, then something else pops up in use that costs money? The days of concern about overages in text messages were so long ago, like maybe even last year, so we have forgotten all about it. Now our concerns are over data usage. Where does it end?

It appears it ends when we get a warning text. We've set all our phones to alert us and when the 90% message pops up, it's back to the archaic method of texting. Not surprisingly, the kid has already figured out a method around being cut off, which I found quite resourceful. Within days, she has mastered the art of switching between 3G and WIFI and has already begun reminding me I should be doing the same. Her intelligent usage of the data might even help us save money, if I can ever get the hang of it. I'm really glad we had our debate over data.

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