Remember the days of dial-up? When your computer used to make a noise like it was coughing up a lung, and then you’d be connected to the internet, but could not use your phone? And nothing would load fast, but you’d still pay through your nose for it? I imagine real torture today would involve making someone watch Netflix, but with a dial-up connection. It could be one of those experimental things to see at how long it takes to make people lose their minds.
We’re in an age of abundance now, and we don’t even know it. I know I took my internet speed for granted in Singapore. Our house had the cheapest available broadband plan, for which we got a speed of about 300mbps and unlimited data usage, which was, eh, something we could work with. We never thought we were getting anything special. Then one day I called my dad to ask him what the internet speed was at home to see if I could manage working from India while I was on vacation, and he gave me a number I just couldn’t believe – 2. “2? As in 200, right?” “No, 2. As in 2mbps.” I couldn’t even wrap my head around the difference. How were you supposed to do anything with that?
And then there was the matter of data. I still vividly remember the first time I went home after my parents got broadband in the house. I must have stayed for two or three weeks, but my father ended up with a bill for about ten times the normal number. I wasn’t used to the idea of limited data – for as long as I’d lived in Singapore, there was never a cap. Because of this, I had no clue about how much data it took to load a webpage, to watch a YouTube video, to stream an episode on Netflix or to simply scroll through Tumblr. (I would not have guessed, for example, that the last one far exceeds all the others.)
And then I moved to India permanently and had to deal with the reality of data caps. My cousin and I, both heavy internet users, decided to go for a modest 90GB-a-month plan, thinking it would be more than enough for our shenanigans on the world wide web. Turns out, we were not even close to hitting the mark. Within the first 10 days, we’d blown through about 80% of our allowance, prompting both of us to hurriedly set up data monitors on our laptops, phones and tablets.
Thanks to this, I now know have a pretty good idea of what an ungodly amount of data it takes to do anything worthwhile, and honestly, it’s sucking the joy out of everything. We’re now constantly deciding between offline downloading and streaming on Netflix, between doing things on the phone and on the computer, and trying to find tips and tricks to extend our data usage. The internet should be a fun place, and having to keep track of it is like giving me a wad of money and then making me an accountant.
This post has no happy resolution. We’re still trying to sort out how best to manage our data issues in ways other than our current go-to option, which is, “just buy more”, and which do not involve the parent go-to method of telling us to “just use the internet less, what are you even doing on there?” We may be in a bind, but that does not mean we’re going back to the Stone Ages. No, we’d rather just go with our solution now, while hoping for a technological miracle that brings us up to speed with South Korea in, you know, a year or so. One can dream, right?