When free isn’t free

Having gone over my Internet usage quota for the second month in a row, and with a very high chance of making it a hat-trick, I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my Internode plan from 10Gb to 150Gb. With ISPs offering 1Tb plans these days, I often got asked why I stuck with such a paltry download limit. In short, I didn’t need it. The only reason why I even got close to 10Gb is because of the increasing number of computers, smartphones and gaming consoles Jenny and I own, each of which demands a constant stream of data to stay updated. The new quota is 10 times* more than what I’m likely to use.

My intention with this post isn’t to lay the gratuitous smack down from atop the lofty heights of my moral high-horse, but to explain my personal choice, because there are so many people – otherwise intelligent, rational, critical thinking people – who are baffled by it.

How is it possible that a self-professed digital junkie like myself uses so little? The answer is simple: I don’t pirate. Many of you know about my strict stance against piracy: I simply won’t download anything from the internet – movies, TV series, software – that I didn’t buy from a trusted, legitimate source. One time, I unwittingly bought an extremely convincing pirated DVD and upon discovering that it was fake, completely refused to watch it (much to Jenny’s ire).

WHARRGARBLI have a drawer full of Wii, PS3 and Nintendo DS games that I haven’t gotten around to playing. My desktop PC contains yet more, although because those were purchased digitally via Steam, I often forget that they’re even there. ABC iView** provides plenty of great viewing for veging-out-on-the-couch occasions, then the Websites that I’m subscribed to, as well as physical media – after all that there really isn’t much time left for anything else. As a person firmly entrenched in the affluent upper-middle class, paying for content is one way of preventing overconsumption and being more discerning in my choice of entertainment. Giving oneself the option of downloading content is like drinking from the firehose, and I can quite easily occupy my time without it.

Being on the right side of the moral and legal argument is just candy. I used to be the biggest pirate when I was younger, so to criticise others who are doing it now would be hypocrisy.

Have a think about it. If you’re suffering from the symptoms of information overload – you feel boxed in, you’re constantly overwhelmed, or your life seems bland and boring, and you can’t find the time to do the things you like – consider if turning off the tap of “free” entertainment and experience a new kind of free.


* actually a little bit less than that in practice, because with this new plan uploads are counted, whereas before they weren’t
** which is unmetered on Internode and doesn’t count towards my quota anyway