No-limits data plans may be a boon for Australian consumers. But the move could put students at risk, freeing them from reliance on protected school networks to go free-range on their own data.
This week Vodafone and Telstra joined Optus in launching the unlimited plans. All three feature “throttling” - speed limits that take effect once data usage passes a certain cap. But they do provide limitless basic web browsing and low-definition streaming at no extra charge.
How much data users get at normal network speeds varies by plan. Vodafone, for example, advertises that its 60GB plan “is enough to stream every episode of Stranger Things ever made, every single month on Netflix.”
When you break it down, that’s a fairly limited definition of “unlimited.” In fact, by our calculations, it equates to only about 14 hours of streaming a month. That said, such plans still represent a big breakpoint in download value for mobile devices.
But the boon for consumers has the potential to create unlimited headaches for schools, warns ySafe cyber expert Jordan Foster.
“Most students these days will have some sort of limited data package, which means that they have to be mindful of how much content they are consuming,” notes Foster, a clinical psychologist and social media expert. “In order to save data, they typically rely on school wifi networks. That’s good, because those networks invariably have some sort of firewall in place to filter out inappropriate content.
“But with no data limit on their personal devices, students will no longer be constrained by school wifi. That means their smartphone use will be incredibly difficult to control.
Tethering presents a further risk, Foster adds. “It only takes one student to have unlimited data to allow all students (or, perhaps more realistically, their friendship group) to have unlimited data. And that will lead to still more children abandoning the school’s protected wifi network.”
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