Streaming your favorite movies or series is all fun until your phone buzzes, and you get the annoying email from your internet service provider, letting you know that you’re about to exceed your data cap. This can be quite heartbreaking as you may have to top up your data to resume streaming your favorite series or movies.
For a lot of internet users, they don’t even know that they have their data capped. And should you find yourself in this scenario, you’ll have to make some hard choices- either let go of your weekend binging for the remainder of the month or subscribe for more data.
The not so cool thing about data caps is that you may sometimes not know that you have crossed your data cap until you get the bills the following month and see what your internet provider is charging you.
Although most internet service providers have data caps, not many internet users are aware, and that’s because many providers tuck them away in fine prints.
Now the million-dollar question is, wouldn’t it be great if you know about this in advance? We bet you would like that. Thankfully, you’re in luck as today’s post has all the information you need to know about data caps. Read on to find out what your provider’s data limit is and how to find an alternative option.
What every internet user should know about data caps
If you have any idea about data caps, then you’ll agree that no one likes to get their data capped. Unfortunately, most providers impose some limitations on the amount of data internet users can transfer while surfing the internet.
Whether you’re a heavy internet user or just one who likes to keep in touch with friends and family through Facebook, the amount of data you consume greatly depends on your online activities.
If you only send and receive emails, then you’ll only be using a few megabytes of data. On the flip side, let’s say you stream an hour of your favorite movies or shows on Netflix, you could use up to 30 GB of data, and you’ll agree that this is quite a lot.
That said, imposing data caps on internet users or throttling their internet speed is the internet provider’s way of discouraging users from excessive data usage.
Given the unprecedented growth in streaming, many users are beginning to give a second thought about the providers to choose. More so, no one wants to be cut short when streaming an episode from their favorite series, so it’s essential to weigh your options when shopping for the perfect internet service provider.
According to data released by Statista, the number of Netflix subscribers in the United States alone grew from 21.45 million in the third quarter of 2011 to about 58.46 million in the third quarter of 2018. To add to that, it was reported in April 2017 that most US households spend an average of 81 hours on DirecTV Now. Other providers like Hulu and Netflix accounted for 29 and 27 hours, respectively.
Let’s give you a clearer picture of what we are talking about. Let’s say you use multiple streaming platforms, play your favorite games online, and do weekly grocery shopping, should you be worried about going above a 1TB internet data cap? No. But if you use way less than this a month, then you should be concerned.
For internet users who are worried that Netflix binging may send them over their data caps, you’ll find lots of fantastic tips on how you can manage household data consumption. And if this doesn’t work for you, you can opt for providers with a reasonable offer or go for a provider with a no data cap policy.
Why do internet providers have data caps?
A lot of internet service providers have justified the reason for imposing data caps. And even though internet users aren’t buying their argument, there is very little users can do. Most internet providers in the US have repeatedly stated that having data caps helps lower internet pricing as well as ease congestion.
Verizon, one of the biggest internet service providers in the United States, has told the government that they impose data caps because they don’t want to throttle their customers. And it isn’t only Verizon that is towing this direction; even smaller cable ISPs have followed suit. According to cable ISPs, imposing data caps helps the company to manage congestion.
For many internet users, imposing data caps doesn’t make any sense, and there are many reasons to be skeptical.
First off, the amount of data you can subscribe to nowadays have skyrocketed. A few years ago, you might have expected to get a few amounts of data on your monthly internet subscription, but things have changed as you can now get a decent amount of gigabytes for the same price.
And with so many people now streaming their favorite videos online, there isn’t any complaint from providers that congestion has increased significantly.
Secondly, internet service providers and their lobbyists are beginning to admit that imposing data caps is more about making money than preventing congestion. As lobbyists put it, most internet providers impose data caps because they want to monetize a high fixed cost fairly.
But a lot of internet users are getting fed up with this practice, especially considering that internet providers impose data caps; then charge users extra money to get the same service they previously subscribed to. The likes of Comcast charge you an additional $50 per month to remove data caps.
What happens when you exceed your data cap?
Well, this depends on the provider you opt for. For some providers, you’ll notice that your internet connection speed slows down. Basically, this is what professionals call throttling. For some companies, users are charged extra for exceeding their data cap. In worse cases, you may even lose your internet connection altogether.
How much data do you need?
Data allowance has taken center stage in phone contracts. Today, calling and texting have been shoved to the backburner as users now prefer to use Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and TikTok as a means of communicating with their loved ones and friends. Even streaming and surfing the internet is gaining lots of prominences as people are now making the switch to a more digitally inclined world.
To this end, it’s important to have enough monthly data. But guess what, no one wants to pay for unused data. But because we want the best for you, we have covered all the common data-consuming activities. This should give you an idea of how much data you need every month.
How much data does an average person use?
The average internet user consumes around 2.9GB worth of data per month in 2019. This signifies a 25% increase from what it was the previous year. In 2020, data usage for the average mobile user has grown to around 4GB per month. And with the introduction of 5G and the fact that the world is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, the number is set to skyrocket significantly. But let’s give you some numbers, so you have a glimpse of what we are talking about.
What internet users can do with 1GB of data
If you want to surf the internet, use social media platforms, and read through your mail for at least 40 minutes per day, then you’re probably going to be needing around 1GB (1000MB) of data per month. Although this may not be enough, it should suffice for lighter users.
If you listen to music every now and then, this data allowance should let you stream up to 10 hours of music over one month. Keep in mind that this data allowance should suffice for short daily commutes, especially if you aren’t using your phone for other data types.
For video lovers, this data allowance isn’t for you as you’re most likely to exhaust your allowance after streaming 1 or 2 films. And if you like 4K quality, then you may not even manage to see a single movie.
Here is what 1GB of data gives you:
- 40 minutes of daily web browsing as well as surfing social media platforms
- You get to enjoy 20 minutes of daily music streaming or 10 hours of monthly music streaming
- Binge 1-2 medium quality movies per month.
What internet users can do with 2GB of data
If you don’t use mobile data often, then this data allowance should be enough to surf the web and social media for at least an hour or so a day. Unfortunately, if you like to stream high-quality movies or watch a lot of videos, this data allowance isn’t for you.
Here is what you can do with 2GB of monthly data:
- Enjoy 80 minutes of surfing the web as well as social media.
- Listen to 80 hours of uninterrupted music per month.
- Stream 3-4 medium quality movies per month.
What internet users can do with 4GB of data
Although 4GB data (4000MB) may not be enough for heavy internet users, it should be enough for mid-range data users. With this data allowance, you should comfortably browse, surf social media, and read your emails without any hassle, unless you surf the internet for much of the day.
If you’re okay surfing the internet for around 40 minutes a day and streaming at least an hour of music daily, then this data allowance should be enough as it creates a nice balance between both options.
This data allowance is also enough for people who stream a few low or medium quality movies every month. That said, if you’re a binge-watcher, this data allowance just won’t cut it.
Here is what 4GB data offers:
- Three hours of the uninterrupted browsing experience, and that includes surfing social media.
- One hour of quality music listening experience.
- Stream a couple of low and medium quality movies every month.
What internet users can do with 8GB of data
With 8GB data, you can comfortably stream videos without any hassle. And if you use most of your data for video streaming, you should stream 32 hours of low-quality video content. However, if you decide to tweak the quality up a bit, that figure should considerably reduce.
If you like high-quality videos, then you should be able to manage around 8 hours. Although it isn’t enough, it is still a reasonable amount.
For people who don’t stream every day, you should be able to browse the web and listen to music for at least 40 minutes every day. Again, this should let you stream a few episodes of your favorite shows at least once or twice a week.
Here is what 8GB sample data gives you:
- 6 hours of uninterrupted social media and web browsing experience
- Enjoy 32 hours of low-quality video streaming
- Enjoy a mix of browsing, video streaming, and music
What internet users can do with 20GB of data
If you’re a heavy internet user and like to surf the web daily, stream your favorite videos and music regularly, check email updates and do much more, this is the one for you. With a 20GB data allowance, you can stream music for two hours daily, surf the web, and social media for 2 hours as well as stream one episode of your favorite show every day.
And if you aren’t the type to stream every day, you can confidently surf through the websites you love without worrying about running out of data.
Here is what you can do with 20GB of sample data:
- Surf the web for 2 hours daily, enjoy 2 hours of immersive music listening experience, and one hour of video streaming daily.
- If you only surf the web, then you wouldn’t be worried about running out of data.
What internet users can do with 50GB of data
For heavy internet users interested in a couple of hours of web browsing, music streaming, and movies every day, this is the one for you. Although this is more data than most people likely need, it is worth it, especially if you don’t have regular Wi-Fi at home or you like to stream on your commute.
Here is what 50GB of sample data gives you:
- Enjoy 2 hours of uninterrupted music listening experience, 2 hours of endless web surfing, and streaming two movies every day.
How do you avoid going over your data cap?
By now, you already know what data cap means and how ISPs use it to their advantage. Now the next big question is, how can you avoid going over your data cap? Stay with us as we will offer some practical solutions that will help keep you from exceeding your data cap and free extra charges.
Figure out what consumes data
The first step to keeping your data consumption in check is figuring out what consumes more data and what isn’t. For instance, checking through your mails, even if you check it a hundred times every day, wouldn’t make a single dent on a 500GB data package. But guess what, if you spend a larger part of your day streaming YouTube video, then you should expect your data to deplete.
If you surf through Facebook and stream every video on your feed, you’ll most like consume a reasonable amount of data. Do the same for Instagram and other social platforms, and you’ll soon exceed your data cap.
However, if you disable autoplay and select the kind of contents you want to stream, you’ll most likely keep your data consumption in check.
That said, if you can’t stay off Facebook and Instagram and spend a large chunk of your day exploring these platforms, then get set to consume several gigabytes of data per week just looking at photos and videos.
Limit your resolution and bandwidth when streaming videos
If you like to binge-watch your favorite series on Netflix or spend hours on YouTube and other streaming services like Sling, then get set to chew through a large chunk of your data package. But guess what, you can do a few things to keep your data in check even if you stream regularly. But before then, let’s show you how much data you’re likely to consume when streaming Netflix:
To stream SD videos on Netflix, you’ll use around 0.7GB per hour.
To stream HD videos, get set to use around 3GB an hour.
For people who want the ultimate viewing experience, and prefer Ultra high definition (UHD), get set to use around 7GB an hour.
If you consider the scenario above, then you’ll understand how streaming Netflix can take a hit on your data package pretty quickly. Here are some things you can do to put your data consumption in check:
Tweak the output resolution of your streaming box
If you use a streaming box, it will make a lot of sense to lower the output resolution. We understand the fact that you bought a 4K TV because you want to watch your favorite movies or show in pristine quality. That said, if you’re serious about not crossing your data cap, you can tweak your video resolution from 4K to 1080p.
On the flip side, if you have been streaming content in 1080p and you’re looking to put a peg on your data consumption, you can tweak your streaming resolution to 720p. We understand that this can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is the right thing to do, especially if you don’t want to cross your data cap.
Put a check to frequent gaming
Asides video streaming, gaming is among the biggest data hog, and we aren’t talking about playing them, but actually downloading them. For gamers, we are sure you already know how data-consuming it can be to download new games. And even if you have the physical disc, you’ll spend a large chunk of your data on updates.
To this end, you’ll have to plan your new game days wisely. We understand that this can be super annoying, but if you’re looking to minimize data, it’s something you have to deal with.
It’s difficult to tell people to manage their data, and that’s because it all boils down to lifestyle. But you’ve got to be smart when it comes to new game days. It takes some planning to get it right. If you’re approaching the end of your billing cycle and still have some data left, go ahead to download the next game you’re looking to get, even if you won’t be playing it right away.
Check for uploads and updates
Keep in mind that uploads can take a hit on your data, so you have to put this in check to avoid exceeding your data cap. For people who upload videos of their kids for other family members to see, execute scheduled cloud backups, and use internet-connected security cameras in their homes, you’ll need to check these closely as they count against your data cap.
Although you may not be subscribed to a dedicated backup service, there is a huge chance that you use cloud-based storage services like DropBox or Google Drive.
These services are a real data hog, especially when you permit them to sync data automatically.
Look for off-peak hours
Some internet service providers offer their customers off-peak hour deals. During this time, any data used wouldn’t count against your data cap. Although not every provider offers this option, it will be smart to check which provider offers this as part of their internet package. Take some time to comb through different ISP websites or put a call across to them to see what they offer in terms of off-peak hour deals.
Please keep in mind that most off-peak hour deals kick-in in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping. You can take advantage of this offer by scheduling large downloads and device updates when you can.
Data caps on home internet
Depending on your ISP, different internet service providers have data caps you should be aware of before signing up for their services. Here, check out some of the popular ISPs and their data cap for home internet.
AT&T data cap
AT&T is among the growing list of internet providers who offer internet services with data capped. For DSL customers, AT&T sets a 150GB data cap. In addition, the company also provides 215GB per month for wireless internet. That’s not all; they also offer 1TB data caps for most of their plans.
For customers who opt for AT&T’s 1000Mbps plan or decide to bundle DirecTV, you may qualify for unlimited data plans. Should you exceed your data cap, the company charges an extra $10 for every 50GB of data used. But if you think this isn’t fair, you can opt for an unlimited data plan for an extra $30 per month.
Cox data cap
Cox offers some of the best internet plans you’ll come across. In fact, most of their plans come with 1TB of data. However, customers who exceed their data cap with the company will have to pay an additional $10 for 50GB of data. And because the company understands that you use a lot of data, they offer customers an option to buy additional 500GB per month for an extra $30. Alternatively, you can opt for unlimited data for an additional $50 per month.
Mediacom data caps
This company’s data cap varies as there are no uniform data caps for all their plans. That said, their data plans can vary from 150 to 400GB for lower-priced plans and over 1TB for higher-tier plans. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t let customers add unlimited data, but that shouldn’t be a problem considering their over 1TB data caps and more.
Should you exceed your data cap, the company charges an extra $10 for 50GB of data.
HughesNet data caps
HughesNet tows a different direction when it comes to data caps. As things stand, the company offers a download speed of 25Mbps. The only real difference here is the amount of data users get each month.
The company’s data cap ranges from 10GB for their $59.99 per month plan to 50GB for their $149.99 per month plan.
And unlike other ISPs, HughesNet doesn’t have hard data limits. Instead, they reduce your internet speed to 1-3Mbps when you cross your data cap.
CenturyLink data caps
CenturyLink has one of the harshest data cap policies in the internet space. And once customers go over the company’s 1TB data cap, they are liable to CenturyLink’s excessive use policy. Under this policy, exceeding your data cap can force the company to discontinue your service after three months of excessive use, especially if you refuse to follow the company’s notices or guidance.
Providers who offer internet with no data cap
Are you tired of going through the hassles of data caps? Well, stay with us as we take you through a list of internet service providers with no data cap.
Spectrum is one of the most transparent internet service providers out there. And we love the fact that they don’t saddle their customers with a monthly data cap. The cool part is that the company offers competitive pricing for most of their data plans, so you wouldn’t have to dig too dip into your savings to jump on their services. With Spectrum, you’ll get over 100Mbps under $50.
Verizon Fios has a lot of amazing things going for them. And if you’re fed up with the hassles that come with data caps, you’ll not be disappointed to give this company a try. With Verizon FiOS, you’ll get up to 1GB with no monthly data limit.
Frontier has joined the bandwagon of internet service providers with no data cap. With this incredible company, you’ll enjoy internet speeds up to 100Mbps for only $39.99 per month. If this isn’t the best deal, we don’t know what else is.
We have come to love this company not just because of their no data cap policy but also because of their fantastic internet speed. Thanks to Windstream, customers will enjoy gigabyte speeds for less than $60 within the first year and $75 per month after the promotional period.
Providers that let you add unlimited plans for an additional cost
Are you interested in unlimited data plans that let you surf the internet and stream your favorite music and movies without the fear of exceeding your data cap? Then you’re in luck today as we have found some providers with some of the best-unlimited deals you cannot say no to. Here, check out some of them.
AT&T: This company lets customers add an unlimited data plan for an extra $30 per month
Cox: With Cox, customers get to enjoy unlimited data for an extra $50 per month
Buckeye Broadband: Give this internet service provider a try and enjoy unlimited data for an extra $30 per month.
Shentel: Just like some of the ISPs mentioned above, Shentel allows you to add unlimited data for an additional $30 per month.
Frequently asked questions
What happens when I cross my data cap?
Well, this depends on your internet service provider. Some providers may charge you extra; some may reduce your internet speed while others may stop your internet connection altogether.
What does speed throttling mean?
Speed throttling is the deliberate attempt by your internet provider to slow your internet speed when you exceed your data cap.
Why do providers use data caps?
There has been a lot of argument as to why providers use data caps. According to ISPs, they use data caps to prevent network congestion.
With many providers including data caps as part of their services, finding a provider with a no data cap policy is quite challenging. That said, we have listed a few tips on how to manage your data, so you don’t exceed your data cap. If this doesn’t work for you, you can opt for a provider that lets you add unlimited data for an additional cost.