Internet Provider Data Caps Guide
Our experts dig into data caps: what they are, why internet providers use them, and how to avoid seeing overage charges on your monthly bill.
Data cap, data allowance, data usage—whatever you call it, the limit your internet service provider (ISP) puts on your internet usage can be a real pain and a big expense.
We’ve gathered internet data cap information for every major ISP in the US to arm you against potential overage charges. Read on to discover which ISPs have unlimited high-speed internet and learn how to avoid fees from providers with data caps.
Summary of internet provider data caps
|Data cap||Overage charge||More details||Plans|
|1,024 GB–unlimited||$10 per 50 GB block||AT&T data cap info||View plans|
|1,024 GB–unlimited||$10 per 50 GB block||Buckeye Broadband data cap info||View plans|
|1,024 GB–unlimited||None||CenturyLink data cap info||View plans|
|1,280 GB–Unlimited||$10 per 50 GB block||Cox data cap info||View plans|
|Unlimited||None||Frontier data cap info||View plans|
|Unlimited||None||Google Fiber data cap info||View plans|
|10 GB–50 GB||None||HughesNet data cap info||View plans|
|150 GB–6,144 GB||$10 per 50 GB block||Mediacom data cap info||View plans|
|Unlimited||None||Optimum data cap info||View plans|
|Unlimited||None||RCN data cap info||View plans|
|100 GB–Unlimited||$10 for each 100 GB block||Sparklight data cap info||View plans|
|Unlimited||None||Spectrum data cap info||View plans|
|Unlimited||None||Verizon Fios data cap info||View plans|
|40 GB–150 GB||None||Viasat data cap info||View plans|
|1,228 GB–Unlimited||$10 per 50 GB block||Xfinity data cap info||View plans|
Data current as of post date. Data allowances and charges are subject to change.
Is 1 TB of data enough?
Although we at CableTV.com tend to agree with internet providers that 1 TB (1,024 GB) of data is more than enough to last most customers for a month, that’s becoming less true by the day.
If you love online gaming, smart home tech, and streaming 4K Ultra HD movies, breaking the data limit is easier than you’d think.
The simplest solution to internet data caps is signing up with a provider that has unlimited data. Enter your zip code below and compare your results to the table above to find the best data allowance in your area.
What are data caps on internet?
Internet data caps are the limits your provider puts on how much you can use the internet each month. Everything you do on the internet from streaming Netflix to scrolling through social media requires data—use your internet service too much, and you might hit the limit.
Other names for data caps include “fair use policy,” “monthly usage allowance,” and “bandwidth cap.” But “bandwidth cap” is a bit of a misnomer because most internet providers won’t slow—or throttle—your speeds if you surpass the limit.
Instead, your provider will usually send a warning when you’ve neared and passed your usage limit, and then you’ll receive overage charges on your next bill.
The exceptions to this rule are satellite internet providers like HughesNet and Viasat, which offer plans based on data caps, not varying download speeds. After you reach the data limit with these providers, you’ll still be able to use your internet service, but your ISP will throttle your speed.
What happens when you reach your data cap?
Once you reach your internet data cap, look out for overage charges—internet providers regularly provide 50 GB chunks of additional data for $10 a pop. But some providers may instead slow your internet speeds or cut your internet access off entirely until the next month.
Want to know how your specific internet provider handles data cap overages? We answer this question in depth in each provider section below.
Why do providers use data caps?
The short (and skeptical) reason why internet providers use data caps is because they can.
The longer explanation is that ISPs can only produce so much internet bandwidth and capacity. Because ISPs recognize their limits, they try to discourage users from using too much data, which might slow internet speeds for other users.
As a result, many providers call their data policies “fair use policies,” emphasizing that the aim is to provide better internet service for their customers across the board.
But some ISPs enforce unrealistically small data caps rather than updating their infrastructure to support modern internet usage. On a data cap plan below 600 GB, even watching a few hours of Netflix a day and scrolling through Instagram can blow through your allowance, and your ISP might slap you with a huge fine or even upgrade your plan without consulting you.
If that sounds scary, look for ISPs that offer “unlimited” plans. These plans often encourage users to stay below 1,024 GB of data, but they’ll reach out on a case-by-case basis to communicate with individual users who are causing issues for the rest of the network.
And that’s not something you should worry about unless you’re streaming 4K Ultra HD all day or torrenting huge files. (If you don’t know what torrenting is, don’t worry—that’s a guarantee you’re not doing it.)
What uses up the most data?
Everything from email to online gaming takes up data, but unless you’re regularly downloading massive files, streaming TV probably puts the heaviest strain on your data usage.
Netflix claims streaming Full HD uses 3 GB per hour and 4K Ultra HD uses 7 GB per hour. With the common data cap of 1 TB (1,024 GB), you can stream about 333 hours in Full HD or 143 hours in 4K Ultra HD per month. That’s plenty of data if you don’t have a large household or if you’re not a legendary-level binge-watcher.
- One unwinds some evenings with Stumptown. (7 hours)
- Another is re-watching all of Game of Thrones. (74 hours)
- A third watches a couple of hours of anime every night. (60 hours)
- A fourth keeps up on the newest Netflix series every weekend. (40 hours)
That puts the household at a total of 181 hours. Assuming they’re watching in Full HD, that’s just over half a 1,024 GB limit. Even with adding on some video chats, game downloads, and browsing, these TV lovers will likely finish the month well under their data cap.
But if your household has more people, watches 4K content, or binges more TV than this, you should seriously consider a high-speed internet plan with unlimited data.
Do all brands have data caps?
Many ISPs limit data usage, but not all of them do. With internet technology advancing, some providers are raising their data ceilings, offering unlimited high-speed internet plans, or eliminating caps altogether.
Before you decide on an internet provider, double-check that it’s available in your area. Enter your zip code below to see your options. (We don’t keep your personal info or pass it on to anyone else.)
Does AT&T have data caps?
What happens if I exceed my AT&T data allowance?
For the first two bill periods you go over, you’ll receive notices but no charge. In the third period, you’ll receive three warning notices, and then you’ll receive additional 50 GB allowances—for $10 a pop.
Each month thereafter, AT&T can fine you a maximum of $100 in overage charges if you’re on a normal AT&T Internet plan. DSL and fixed wireless internet customers can rack up as much as $200 in overages.
How do I track my AT&T data usage?
AT&T provides an estimate of how much data you’ve used when you log into your account. After the first bill period you go over your data limit, AT&T will send you email notices when you use 65%, 90%, and 100% of your data.
Does Buckeye Broadband have data caps?
Buckeye Broadband’s Starter internet plan comes with a tiny 250 GB data cap, but you’ll get unlimited data on its other plans.
You can also buy more data each month: either $15 for 250 GB or $30 for unlimited data. But since the Essential Internet plan comes with unlimited data and is only $20 per month more than the Starter plan for new customers, you’re better off making the jump to the next package.
What happens if I exceed my Buckeye Broadband data allowance?
Buckeye Broadband charges $10 for you to access each additional block of 50 GB data. Even if you use only a little of a 50 GB block, you’ll still have to pay for the whole amount.
How do I track my Buckeye Broadband data usage?
To track your usage, log into your account. Buckeye Broadband will send you alerts when you’re nearing your limit.
Does CenturyLink have data caps?
CenturyLink caps most of its plans at 1,024 GB, but users of Fiber Gigabit get unlimited internet—and so do folks in CenturyLink’s low-income household programs.
What happens if I exceed my CenturyLink data allowance?
If you go over your CenturyLink data cap, you won’t get any fines—but you will be asked to reduce your usage, subscribe to a higher-speed internet plan, or switch to a business plan.
You don’t have to choose any of those options, but that may lead to your service being disconnected. To avoid that, you’ll want to pick among CenturyLink’s choices before three months of excessive usage within a twelve-month period.
How do I track my CenturyLink data usage?
CenturyLink doesn’t currently offer a way to track usage.
Does Cox internet have data caps?
All of Cox’s internet plans come with a 1,280 GB data cap. However, you can purchase an additional 500 GB for $29.99 per month or unlimited data for $49.99 per month.
What happens if I exceed my Cox data allowance?
If you go over your data cap, Cox will supply you with additional 50 GB data blocks, which will cost you $10 apiece.
How do I track my Cox data usage?
Sign into your account or use your Cox Connect App to access your data usage meter. At 85%, 100%, and 125% usage, Cox will send you text messages and email alerts to let you know.
Does Frontier have data caps?
Frontier FiberOptic doesn’t cap data on the majority of its internet plans. However, if you have access to only Frontier’s satellite internet plans, you’ll have an assigned data allowance. You can find it by following the link and checking under “Frontier Broadband Fair Access Policy – Satellite.”
What happens if I exceed my Frontier data allowance?
If you have Frontier satellite internet and go over your assigned data allowance, your speeds will be reduced. You can purchase and assign Restore Tokens to remove speed restrictions by calling a Frontier customer service agent at 877-451-1801.
Does Google Fiber have data caps?
No, Google Fiber doesn’t have data caps.
To see if Google Fiber with unlimited data is available in your area, enter your zip code below.
Does HughesNet have data caps?
While HughesNet has no hard data limits, each package is based on a distinct data cap. Within your data allowance, your internet speeds can reach as high as 25 Mbps. But after you reach the data cap, your speeds will slow to around 1 Mbps–3 Mbps.
What happens if I exceed my HughesNet data allowance?
HughesNet will throttle your speeds for the rest of the month if you exceed your data allowance. However, all plans come with an additional 50 GB of full-speed data you can use only during 2 a.m.–8 a.m., so your Netflix watching might have to wait for a late-night marathon.
How do I track my HughesNet data usage?
Log into your HughesNet account to track your data usage.
Does Mediacom have data caps?
Mediacom has five different data caps, starting at 350 GB. Each of its plans has a significantly higher data cap than the one before, so if you’re running into overage problems, upgrading your plan may be your best solution.
What happens if I go over my Mediacom data allowance?
Mediacom charges $10 for each additional block of 50 GB data.
How do I track my Mediacom data usage?
There will be an internet usage meter when you log into your Mediacom account.
Does Optimum have data caps?
Optimum doesn’t have data caps. If any customer uses excessive amounts of data, posing a threat to the internet experience of others, Optimum deals with it on a case-by-case basis.
FYI: we gave Optimum our Editor’s Choice award for best no-contract internet in 2021. Enter your zip code below to see if you can get unlimited data with no contract through Optimum.
Does RCN have data caps?
RCN doesn’t have data caps. All of RCN’s plans come with unlimited data.
In 2021, we gave RCN our Editor’s Choice award for best cheap internet. If you live in and around New York City, RCN is a great provider. Enter your zip code below to see if RCN is available in your neighborhood.
Does Sparklight (formerly CableOne) have data caps?
Sparklight’s data caps are restrictively small. Its first two plans have limits of 100 GB and 300 GB, which don’t even come close to offering enough data to support modern internet usage. But you can add unlimited data to your plan for an extra $40 per month.
What happens if I go over my Sparklight data allowance?
Sparklight has larger additional data blocks than many providers that enforce data caps—$10 gets you 100 GB more data. And Sparklight will only charge you up to $50 in a month. But you’re more likely to run into overage charges with Sparklight, so don’t get too excited.
How do I track my Sparklight data usage?
Sparklight offers a usage meter through your customer portal.
Does Spectrum have data caps?
All Spectrum internet plans come with unlimited data.
Spectrum internet is pretty solid, but where Spectrum excels is TV service. In fact, we gave Spectrum TV our Editor’s Choice award for best value in 2021. To see if Spectrum internet and TV service is available in your town, enter your zip code below.
Does Verizon Fios have data caps?
You won’t see any Verizon data caps here—Verizon’s internet plans come with unlimited data, although there have been reports of Verizon contacting individual users when they go through an excessive amount of data (think multiple thousands of GB).
That said, we think Verizon is the best overall ISP in 2021. Enter your zip code below to see if Verizon Fios is available in your hometown.
Does Viasat have data caps?
Viasat (formerly Exede) has four different tiers of data caps for its plans: 40 GB, 60 GB, 100 GB, and 150 GB.
What happens if I go over my Viasat data allowance?
Viasat won’t charge you overage fees, but depending on your plan, it may throttle your speeds, restrict your service, or ask you to transition to another service plan.
How do I track my Viasat data usage?
You can track your usage through your online Viasat account.
Does Xfinity have data caps?
Most Xfinity plans have a 1,228 GB GB data cap. However, you can purchase an unlimited data option for an additional $50.00.
Or if you’re a light internet user who typically uses less than 5 GB, you can enroll in the flexible data option and get a $5 credit each month. And also—please contact us. We’re not sure people like you exist, but we want to know your secret to staying under 5 GB.
What happens if I go over my Xfinity data allowance?
You won’t be billed for the first two months you exceed 1,228 GB GB, but after that, Xfinity will charge you $10 for every additional 50 GB of data, up to a total of $200 each month.
How do I track my Xfinity data usage?
To monitor your usage, log into your Xfinity account or mobile app. You’ll also receive in-browser notices and emails when you’re nearing your data limit.
Our final take
Most users don’t go through enough data to notice their internet data cap at all, but if you have a lot of people in your home who all stream HD shows for hundreds of hours each month, you’ll want a big data allowance.
Quite a few of the major internet providers listed above offer unlimited data, so check your options. Enter your zip code below to see which of those providers have networks near you.
Internet data cap FAQ
Which internet providers offer unlimited data?
Some internet providers offer unlimited data in all of their plans:
- Frontier FiberOptic
- Google Fiber
- Verizon Fios
Other internet providers offer unlimited internet on high-tier plans:
- Buckeye Broadband
And a few internet providers offer unlimited data add-ons for a monthly charge:
- Buckeye Broadband
Enter your zip code below to see if you can get unlimited data with your internet plan.
How many hours of streaming is 1 TB?
With 1 TB (1,024 GB), you can stream in Standard HD for about 1,000 hours, Full HD for 333 hours, or 4K Ultra HD for 143 hours.
Is home Wi-Fi unlimited?
You won’t use your phone data while you’re on home Wi-Fi, but you’ll still use your internet service data. Data plans for internet vary greatly, so check our table above or ask your internet provider to see how much data your internet service plan allows.
What is an internet bandwidth cap?
“Internet bandwidth cap” is a misnomer—the correct term is data cap. Data caps are a limit internet providers put on how much information you can access from the internet on a monthly basis.