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Choosing the Right Data Block for Your Broadband Plan

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shutterstock_122637835Data blocks are stand-alone, one-off data allowances that you can add to your Internet plan. You might need to add a data block if you are on a limited plan and you exceed your maximum data downloads for the current billing period. Once you exceed your allowable data, your ISP typically shapes your access speed, so you will need to buy extra data to maintain your usual speed.

Why buy data blocks?

Many if not most ISPs start shaping speeds when users go over their monthly data allowance. This means it will be slower to download movies and other content. If you’re a business, it could mean lower quality video calls or voice calls.

Data blocks are useful because users can supplement their data allowance, access the same data speeds, and avoid committing to a bigger data allowance than they have to.

For example, a user might only usually use 20GB per month, so they don’t want to pay extra for an unlimited contract. However, a few months of the year they might exceed this, so a data block is the perfect solution during these higher-usage periods.

How data blocks work

Data blocks can be purchased before or after the user exceeds their quota. The data block is added to the user’s total data allocation for the applicable billing period (usually one month), though this can vary depending on the ISP and the specific terms and conditions of the plan.

Under this type of plan, if a user on a 50GB plan exceeds their usual monthly plan by 1GB (so they use 51GB in total) before they purchase an additional 10GB data block, they will only have an addition 9GB on full speed.

This type of plan also means that a user who’s already exceeded their regular quota by 5GB will need to buy a data block that’s bigger than 5GB to avoid being penalised. For example, if this user buys a 10GB data plan, they will have 5GB of data that will not be available for use in the current billing period.

Applicable time period

Data blocks usually apply only in the current billing period, so they do not roll over into the next cycle if you do not use up the entire data block. As such, users should check how many days they have left in their current billing cycle. The good news is that data blocks usually take minimal time to activate, so you can access full speeds usually within one or two hours.

Types of data blocks

Many ISPs offer off-peak and peak data blocks. Off-peak blocks are those that can be used during off-peak times (such as 1am to 7am), while peak data blocks are those to be used during peak periods. Usually, peak data blocks will be more expensive than off-peak data blocks. Some data blocks incorporate allowance for both peak and off-peak periods.

How much does it cost?

Data blocks range in pricing, but ISPs usual offer a range of data blocks. An average price plan might be $5 for 1GB, $10 for 2GB, and $15 for 3GB of extra data.

Billing

If you’re on a post-paid Internet contract, your ISP will probably add the cost of your data block to your next invoice. If you’re on a pre-paid contract, you’ll probably need to recharge your account and prepay before you can access the extra data.

How many can I purchase?

Some ISPs restrict data block purchases to just one per month, but others do not have restrictions on the number of data blocks that may be purchased in each billing period. Check with your ISP for more information.

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