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What you Must Know about Streaming Movies from Online-“Fair Use”

Submitted by on September 10, 2009 – 4:17 am2 Comments

Think about internet use beyond what you download on your computer!

I am the proud owner of a number of devices that allow me to stream the movies I want to watch anytime I want to watch them.  August is a month of reruns so movies dominate my TV watching experience.  But, if you connect to the internet through a Cable or a satellite internet company, keep track of your movie watching habits for the month!  With Satellite internet like Wild Blue, or the screaming fast internet you can get from your local Cable company, you need to know that they also have a limit of how much traffic they can allow to each subscriber.  To be fair (it’s actually called “fair use”) the cable or satellite company will limit the amount you can download in a period of time.  “Downloading” includes looking at pages with lots of pictures (not a lot of info to download, really), watching YouTube or videos on websites (more info that adds up), downloading applications and updates, the photos people send in emails, playing online games for hours, and mostly downloading music and videos to your computer (like buying them from iTunes, bit torrents or other sources).  Some companies limit the amount you can download in  a day, others will give you a monthly allowance.

Cable Internet and Satellite Internet Companies LIMIT Your Internet Use

My cable company gives me a monthly allowance of 100GB per month.  Now while that sounds like a lot, it adds up when you are streaming* or downloading* high definition movies (or even tons of standard definition videos).I mean, with a speed of 15MB/s (megabits per second), I can download 1 GB of information in less than 15 minutes (with a 1 MB/s connection it took me an hour or more–this is from experience and not actual speed measurements). This allotment is usually for both downloads and uploads-basically transferring information either way.  This means that if you put youtube videos onto youtube, send files or pictures for work or family, etc.–it will all add in.

If you can view your Cable account details online (most companies allow you to view your account online including paying your bill), you might want to track your usage.  In the first 10 days of the month, I have already used half my allowance!

What can you do with 100GB?

  • watch 67 standard definition 2 hour movies (about 1.5 GB each)
  • play 7000 hours of online gaming (actually you can only watch 744 hours in a 31 day month if you do the math)
  • watch 200 “hour long” TV shows (actually 44 minutes)
  • download 25,000 songs (but, come on…your iPod is probably no more than 64 GB anyway)
  • watch LESS THAN 20 HD movies (they average over 5GBs)
  • (and remember you are combining each of these)

I went over my monthly allotment last month.  I used 129 GB.  They charge me $1.50 for ever gigabyte over 100 GB.  So that’s $45.  And $1.50 per extra gig adds up when a high definition movie is several gigs to download.  A $5 rental from online sites can turn into $10 or more with the additional $1.50 per GIG (many high definition movies can be more than 4 gigs). That makes some of my movie rentals a bit more costly than I’d like to pay.

Not Just Computer Downloads but Networked TVs, Netflix, Vudu, Apple TV, “BD-Live”  and Other Devices

This is where there is a complication when you start connecting your home theater devices to the internet. You see, it’s not just the movies or downloads onto my computers, it’s also the movie rentals and download-to-own on my Vudu (a box that streams high definition video), the multitudes of high definition YouTube videos my son watches on our networked TV, and the really sneaky one–Instant Que on Netflix.

Netflix offers tons of movies to stream and watch for free. That is, with a certain nominal additional monthly fee, you can watch unlimited videos.  Not all movies are available, but there are plenty to choose from.  I get Netflix on my TiVo series 3 box (that has a cable card so I can use instead of a cable box), where it’s just another menu item on the TiVo menu where I can pick from my list of movies that I want to watch.  My son often watches on his Xbox360 “game” console.  He can set it up to watch a Netflix movie at the same time as other friends who are on their Xbox360.  They can chat as the movie plays.  Like going to the theater with your pals.  But a movie a day or every couple of days, adds up.  And by the way, you can get Netflix on some Blu-ray Disc players and other devices too.

My cable company, Bend Broadband warns that if the usage is too high, someone in the neighborhood might be hacking into your wireless router (nope, I have a password), or you may have a virus.

The point is…while the experience is like watching any other TV show on Cable, it’s not the same.  They are tracking how much you are downloading.  And those free videos can cost you…well, $45 extra in a month.

*streaming = watching a video or listening to music over the internet where it doesn’t save to your computer or device.  YouTube videos are streamed, Netflix Instant Que are streamed, internet radio and Pandora are streamed, etc.

*downloading=choosing a file, video, song, etc. to save onto your hard drive.  Usually you download to OWN the movie or music, but you may also download a “rented” movie from Vudu or iTunes to watch later– within the next 30 days.

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