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How much bandwidth is enough?

1 September 2010

At the beginning of last month our ISP, Telkom Internet, increased their bandwidth allowance from 5 Gigabytes to 9 Gigabytes a month.

And this month, for the first time since we started using ASDL broadband five years ago, we reached the end of the month without having to buy extra bandwidth, and with some to spare, which I hope carries over to next month.

Internet bandwidth usage, August 2010

That’s good news.

But I’m not suddenly going to relax and start watching bandwidth-hogging stuff like YouTube videos, and will still be running NoScript on my computer to stop that kind of stuff from creeping up on me. NoScript – JavaScript/Java/Flash blocker for a safer Firefox experience! – what is it? – InformAction:

The NoScript Firefox extension provides extra protection for Firefox, Flock, Seamonkey and other mozilla-based browsers: this free, open source add-on allows JavaScript, Java and Flash and other plugins to be executed only by trusted web sites of your choice (e.g. your online bank), and provides the most powerful Anti-XSS protection available in a browser.

That means I’ll still have some web sites, particularly news sites, telling me that I need to turn on Javascript in order to “see all media on this page”, but in most cases I don’t want to see all media on that page, and am not interested in paying extra for stuff that I don’t want or need to see anyway.

The thing about NoScript is that it is selective. You don’t have to turn JavaScript on for everything or for nothing. You can set it to allow a site permanently or temporarily, you can set it to “allow all on this page” temporarily (useful sometimes for seeing those “Capcha” codes when you want to register at a site). But it stops things from hogging your bandwidth unless you really want to see them, and of course it provides some protection against malicious scripts as well.

But one of the things I find rather annoying is that a lot of shops in Pretoria sell computers, especially laptops, with an Internet connection contract included. They don’t tell the poor suckers who buy them just how limited they are. They extol all the wonders of the Internet that you can be connected to by buying one of these machines with its package of 300 Megabytes. On my calculations, even using NoScript to block all the bandwidth-hogging videos and Flash graphics and podcasts and the like, that package wouldn’t last 3 days. I picture people showing the family the wonders of the new toy — look at this funny video on YouTube — so they look again, and then because little Johnny was in the loo and he wants to see it they look again, and poof — that’s your 300 Megs gone. What then?

I once bought such a laptop with such a package attached, and paid R1000 above the advertised price to have it without the Internet package. The salesman thought I was crazy, but I told him it would pay for itself within three months of not having to pay an excessive amount for utterly inadequate bandwidth. Because, as I’ve now discovered, unless you want to do e-mail only, no attachments, 300 Megs is ludicrous, and 10 Gigabytes is about the minimum. And if you want all the “media playing” you’ll probably need about 5 times that. Well, TelkomInternet will probably sell it to you, at R 65.00 a Gig (about £5.40 or US$8.80).

But I have a question for those of you (in South Africa) who keep putting videos on your blogs, or asking me to look at videos on Twitter or Facebook or whatever — how do you manage for bandwidth? Or are you rich enough to afford as much as you like?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Graham permalink
    1 September 2010 1:52 pm

    I have 384kbps of uncapped bandwith from Afrihost. It costs R197 per month (plus the obligatory line rental). It’s perfectly fast enough for my needs. If they’ve ever throttled me, I don’t know about it. I do around 30GB of traffic a month.

  2. 1 September 2010 5:35 pm

    Your bandwidth there in SA is much cheaper than Tanzania, where we pay about the equivalent of $30 US for one GB. If I could purchase internet for as cheap as $8.80/ gig, I’d be tempted to watch the occasional YouTube video or download an iTunes podcast.

    Fortunately, at least while I’m in the capital city, there are certain places that offer free wireless internet. So I can go to such places to do major downloading or uploading of heavy content.

  3. 2 September 2010 9:28 am

    NoScript or OnlyScript?

    I read with interest the problems you have since here in Egypt (I’m in Egypt for a few days) the Internet connections are uncapped but can be relatively slow, since the broadband is shared with others. If you do get a good connection and don’t share it, then its almost as good as Cyprus. We have 2.5 Mb/second uncapped at home and double that at the office. My son from the UK complains how slow it is as they have 9 Mb/second… but capped.

    So I found it interesting to read that you didn’t like Javascript, since on our ‘flagship’ site we have just rewritten it to be exclusively Javascript (AJAX) based. [We’re actually using the Yahoo UI libraries.] Why? because it radically improves performance for the end used since it refreshes only changes while you browse the site, not the whole page. It increases the overhead when you first go to the site, but then each article you read comes in very very much quicker.

    Do I gather few RSA sites have gone that way? If you only read one article on a site then AJAX makes it slower, but if you are reading and responding to many articles, then it is very much faster.

    • 4 September 2010 5:17 am


      If I like a site and want to read it, I can click on a button to allow some or all the media on the site to play, though I very rarely watch videos. A friend said that he was looking at a BBC news site, went to the loo, and when he came back it had downloaded 75 Mb of video he hadn’t even been watching.

  4. 10 October 2010 10:29 am

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for this note – bandwidth is expensive indeed! However, I moved from to for my ADSL some months ago. I also have uncapped bandwidt (384kps as Graham has from Afrihost). While it is relatively slow it does mean that I no longer have to worry about the amount of bandwidth I consume. This has been such a great blessing since I love to watch videos, and have recently taken to downloading videos and audio podcasts from iTunes University (most of the world’s major universities are putting up lectures from all sorts of disciplines and persons for free!)

    I recently listened to a whole term of lectures by Dallas Willard. Truly a treat!

    Rich blessing,

    PS. have you ever considered subsidizing your bandwidth cost with some ‘advertising’ or sponsorship? I’m not entirely sure how one goes about that, but I’m fairly confident that a site as prominent as yours should be able to get some backing.

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