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How to Manage your Gigabytes - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

How to Manage your Gigabytes

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Smartphones are getting more versatile by the day, but surfing the web, and uploading and downloading video can really add up.  Verizon Wireless announced its changing who can keep unlimited plans and how much it will cost, so here's how you can avoid getting bitten by gigabytes.

A gigabyte is a way to measure data and a way for cell phone companies to keep track of how much you're using your cell phone or tablet. Some cell customers have unlimited data plans, but many cell users must choose a data plan or data cap.

Phone calls, emails, texts… don't use up too many bits and bytes. When it comes to video, Michael Weinberg with Public Knowledge has some advice. "You need to be aware that's going to make you hit your cap very quickly... It can be very costly."

Weinberg is senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge: A non-profit public interest advocacy group says consumers are promised great video at high speeds but use your phone like that.

"With a 4G connection you could burn through your monthly cap in under an hour," he warns.

So how much video is too much for your plan? At two gigabytes a month public knowledge says you could: Stream 2 HD movies, stream 3 hours of TV, download half of an HD movie, or upload 2 ten-minute videos.

Some cell companies have decided making customers pay when they go over their plan is bad for business. T-Mobile slows your speed if you use too much data, but doesn't charge you more.

Morteza Erfani is a T-Mobile store manager and says, "We do it that way because every customer wants to not worry about any bill shock or any surprises on their bills."

Sprint, looking to boost its customers, offers unlimited data to everyone. "You don't have to worry about how much data you're using, you're not going to be throttled in any way shape or form," says Spring spokesman John Taylor.

But the biggest carriers, AT&T and Verizon wireless no longer offer unlimited data to all their customers, and charge $10 for every gigabyte over your chosen plan. 

Verizon wireless tells us it has usage-based options for customers to select the plan that best matches their use, and that heavy data users pay a fair price for the services they consumer. Verizon says it is evaluating its data pricing structure and will share details well in advance of their introduction.

AT&T tells us: Our data plans require that they pay for the data they use. With mobile data usage continuing to skyrocket and the availability of spectrum scarce, AT&T manages its network in the most fair way possible so that we can provide the best possible mobile broadband experience.

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