After upgrading my internet connection from 512kb/s to 1.5Mb/s (and 14GB on-peek/month to 20GB on-peek/month), our download usage has gone through the roof. I have made special effort to be careful with downloads and to not download much, but our usage will just not go down. Before we would download approx 600 Mb per day, and it has skyrocketed to over 1 GB per day.

I contacted my ISP about this, and they said all they can do is to get one of their network technicians to look through our logs, and that would cost $88AUD per hour (which would be refunded if the fault was on their end), which I am not willing to pay.

What other options do I have? Being in Australia, are there any legal routes I can go down? Someone else cannot be using our Wi-Fi because not only is it secured, we live in the middle of nowhere and we would see someone if they were leeching off our connection.

I thought about updaters and game consoles running in the background, but with a new Macbook being the only addition to the hardware in our house (which replaced another computer), there would be no reason for our usage to skyrocket.

  • Are you on a plan that meters uploads? – pgs Jul 19 '09 at 4:23
  • No⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ – Josh Hunt Jul 19 '09 at 4:46
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    I think this is quite normal. From 512kb/s to 1.5Mb/s is quite an upgrade. Pages load faster, downloads come faster, and unknowingly, we surfed more and downloaded more in the same amount of time. Youtube videos are the usual culprits. – wai Jul 19 '09 at 5:23
  • It would have been useful to provide a link to superuser.com/questions/8392/why-is-my-internet-so-slow as this appears to give useful background if it is the same installation. – mas Jul 19 '09 at 6:33

As previously suggested, installing monitoring software would greatly help track the source of this problem. Although I have a feeling a lot of your problem is Youtube and other streaming video sites, my siblings are horrible for this as well. It doesn't seem like a lot, but 1 hour of viewing can easily rack up 150mb+ bandwidth on regular videos, not counting if someone is viewing HD videos. HD videos are much worse, more than likely 2 to 3 times the bandwidth per video.

Having an old speed of 512k would probably deter other residents from Youtubing because of constant pauses in the video makes it annoying to watch. The 1.5Mb/s jump would fix that, and I would assume a lot more streaming video is being watched.

If the Macbook was used, you may want to look into the applications installed, make sure no malicious software is running in the background gobbling up bandwidth as well.


How about running something like FreeMeter on each PC? Is it possible bit torrent is running one one of your PCs? Leaving websites open in your web browser can use up some bandwidth, but not the amount you describe. I'd try seeing what your individual PC usage is and how their totals compare to those being give by your ISP.

As an extra precaution I'd do some serious spyware/virus/etc scanning. It's possible one or more of your PCs can be infected by something that is using a lot of bandwidth without your knowledge.

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    I use NetLimiter, another good bandwidth-usage monitor, which allows me to actively prioritize processes in terms of bandwidth. – Yuval Jul 19 '09 at 11:04

There are many websites that reload themselves, or parts of themselves at set intervals, and this can eat up bandwidth.
noscript plugin (firefox) helps me keep websites from using my cpu and bandwidth senselessly


I don't see it as very surprising that you more than doubled you bandwidth and then saw a jump of that type. When you have more bandwidth, it allows you to do more in a shorter period of time. Just a little bit more on time on YouTube every day can show a pretty dramatic increase in how much bandwidth you actually use.

You could always look and see if you have some spyware/adware that is reporting back to it's source, but I don't think it will be the case. I really do not think you have too much of a problem. But if you feel that you still are not sure, setting up a bandwidth monitoring tool on your computers is not a bad idea.


Are your WiFi connections locked down tightly?

Edit: OK, So your wifi is OK. Do you have a spare PC you can put between your network (including your wifi if possible) and your router? Put linux on it, install some IP accounting software, and maybe a proxy server, and you should be able to see where all the traffic on your connection is coming from and going to.

Edit 2: A linux box with ntop and a promiscuous network card can probably monitor all your wired traffic, even if you can't put it between your network and router.

  • I have WPA encryption, but like I said, someone else using our wifi is just out of the question. Our house is just far too isolated, and we would notice if someone came close to the house. – Josh Hunt Jul 19 '09 at 5:22

I would be inclined to generate your own usage reports for a month. If your usage reports do not match theres, have their technicians look into it. Dare them to hit you with the fee.

All the ISP's I worked with while I was living in Australia attempt to foist the buck off you. "Oh, it's not our fault, but if you want us to check it, we will. But it will cost $$$ if you're wrong!". The seed of doubt goes into the customer's mind, then the problem is dropped, everyone is happy - except the customer.

Get your facts and figures, do a little poking around on your network. Heck, unplug the computers and other devices, and see if you're still getting usage for a period. (Some ISP's will let you drill down on a per hour basis).

Bottom line: If you're sure the ISP is getting it wrong, and it's not being caused by you, don't be afraid to call them on their crap. Nine times out of ten, when the user says "You've got a problem, here's the evidence to back it up" the problem magically fixes itself, and you hear nothing about it - until it happens again.

Good luck!


The suggestions so far are sound. A couple of other possibilities:

  1. Some download sites have options, usually selected by the user but perhaps unknowingly (e.g. when it asks 'what is the speed of your connection?', on download volumes for audio/video streaming. With the higher bandwidth available could you, or other users, be using the same streams or other downloads, but at a higher quality/resolution/volume?

  2. Could the new Macbook be contributing to the increase? you don't say how long this increased usage has been going on for or whether the Macbook replaced another machine or is additional. Viewing in higher quality than a previous machine (as in 1.), providing additional user-initiated load, 'catching up' on patches and updates or just additional concurrent usage?

If the ISP provides day-by-day or hour-by-hour usage information perhaps you could try a period of time with no machines running and then several periods with one machine only but doing the normal work for that machine to see if you can identify whether the increase is on one of the machines rather than other(s).


There's a number of good monitoring suggestions already here. I just wanted to throw in that if you are running Windows machines you may have had some large MS updates / service packs come through, in which case the next month should be better again.

It could also just be the temptation of the higher speed, when everything goes a bit faster you more easily leave things running that you would otherwise turn off more rigorously. There is after-all a reason you went from 512 to 1.5, right? But the monitoring software should be able to help determine that.

  • The reason was that the plan we were on was being removed, and we were being downgraded to even less bandwidth. The only plan that had more bandwidth was at a higher speed. – Josh Hunt Jul 19 '09 at 12:13
  • Fair enough... I still think the point stands that it is possible you may be browsing more or having more streams open that you may have closed before, without even noticing it. – jerryjvl Jul 19 '09 at 14:24

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