AT LARGE: Pretty average

AT LARGE: Pretty average

There's an old schoolteacher's mathematics trick that goes like this: a bus is riding along with a driver and four passengers on board. At the first stop an additional 10 passengers get on. At the next one, five more get on, but two get off. At the next stop six people get on and one gets off. At the next stop three people get on and five get off . . . and on it goes, with the kids madly adding and subtracting in their heads, some using their fingers as an abacus. Then at the end, the teacher says "how many stops were there?"

It's a frankly mean trick, and the kid up the back who saw it coming and answers correctly is justly punished by his classmates come lunchtime. I don't know quite why, but teachers like to do this kind of cruel thing to kids.

I think Optus's cable Internet service must be run by schoolteachers. Or perhaps it's the same Überverstand that invented that trick in the first place. Why do I think this? Because the same trick has been pulled on me and the rest of Optus's subscribers.

One of the things that impressed me about Optus when I first hooked up last year was that there were no arbitrary usage limits - you didn't get cut off, or have to pay more, if you went over 2GB in a month, or anything like that. Rather, your usage was measured as an average against other users. If you downloaded more than 10 times the average in a month, then you got cut off and good.

My usage has never crept anywhere near this. I'm generally a little under the average, although I've done my best to exceed it. (I once left a 128Kbps Internet radio station streaming for two solid days. This got me to 2.1 times the average, but the music wasn't any better for it.)Now Optus is changing its policy, as of July 1. It is introducing new plans which have, you guessed it, arbitrary caps. Choose from a 550MB limit, a 3GB limit, a 5GB limit or the "Ultimate", a 10GB limit, with a pricing scale that roughly corresponds (and I do mean roughly - the 5GB plan is just a few bucks shy of double the price of the 3GB plan).

And of course, you're penalised if you exceed these limits. Do you pay more? No. Are you cut off? No. Your download speed is limited to the "standard" dialup speed of 28.8Kbps. How long has it been since 28.8Kbps was the standard dialup speed? Ahhh, memories.

So anyway, I, and many like me, must now choose which plan best matches my needs. Should be a simple choice, right? Just check against your current usage to see which plan suits your needs.

Except your current usage is measured as an average, not as a number. Over the past two weeks I've downloaded 0.8 times the average - you tell me what that is in gigabytes.

Optus's reasoning for the change is that it will make its system "fairer". Yeah, like asking me how many stops there were.

Matthew JC. Powell is disillusioned. Restore faith to

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