While many people consider only download speeds when selecting an Internet Service Provider (ISP), data caps can end up having a huge effect on your internet experience—and how much you pay for it.
Summary of Internet Provider’s Data Caps
|Data Cap||Overage Charge||Learn More|
|1 TB–Unlimited||$10.00 per 50 GB overage||AT&T Data Cap Info|
|100 GB–Unlimited||$10.00 per 50 GB overage||Buckeye Broadband Data Cap Info|
|50 GB–Unlimited||Varies by region||Cable ONE Data Cap Info|
|1 TB–Unlimited||None||CenturyLink Data Cap Info|
|1 TB–Unlimited||$10.00 per 50 GB overage||Cox Data Cap Info|
|Unlimited||None||Frontier Data Cap Info|
|Unlimited||None||Google Fiber Data Cap Info|
|10 GB–50 GB||None||HughesNet Data Cap Info|
|350 GB–6 TB||$10.00 per 50 GB overage||Mediacom Data Cap Info|
|Unlimited||None||Optimum Data Cap Info|
|Unlimited||None||RCN Data Cap Info|
|Unlimited||None||Spectrum Data Cap Info|
|10 GB–Unlimited||None||Viasat Data Cap Info|
|1 TB–Unlimited||$10.00 per 50 GB overage||Xfinity Data Cap Info|
Although many providers say 1 TB of data is more than enough to last most customers for a month, that’s becoming less and less true. As more people use their internet subscription to support smart home technology and 4K-movie downloads, breaking that data limit is easier than you think.
While we focus primarily on traditional television at CableTV.com, we recognize that many of our readers use smart TVs and stream their favorite TV shows. So, in this post we’ll dig deep into how to keep data caps from racking up your bill and ruining your online TV time.
What is a data cap?
A data cap is an ISP-enforced data usage limit. Everything you do on the internet from streaming Netflix to scrolling through social media requires data—use the internet 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, but your speed will be throttled.
Why do providers use data caps?
While caps can be frustrating for subscribers, ISPs that cap data claim the ultimate goal of these caps is to provide a better internet experience for all customers.
ISPs can produce only so much bandwidth and capacity, so excessive use from a few users can lead to slower speeds for the rest of the provider’s consumer base. As a result, many providers call their data policies “fair use policies,” emphasizing that the aim is to provide fair access for all subscribers.
Rather than limiting all customers, ISPs that don’t cap data deal with the problem by reaching out to individual users who are causing issues. This case-by-case approach allows these ISPs to offer their users unlimited data—at least until too many data-draining customers prove to be a problem for the rest of the network.
What uses up the most data?
Everything from email to online gaming takes up data, but aside from 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, 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 big binger.
- One unwinds on weeknights with The Crown. (19 hours)
- Another is re-watching all of Game of Thrones. (63 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 182 hours. Assuming they’re watching in Full HD, that’s just over half a 1 TB limit. Even with adding on some video chats, game downloads, and browsing, this household of TV lovers will likely finish the month well under their data cap.
But if your household has more people, watches 4K, or binges more TV than this, you should seriously consider an internet plan with unlimited data.
Do all brands have data caps?
Many ISPs cap data, but not all. With internet technology advancing, some brands are raising their data ceilings, offering unlimited plans, or eliminating caps altogether.
As you read on for a more in-depth look at big-name ISP data policies, be sure to compare the list to what’s available in your area. Enter your zip code below to see your options.
Does AT&T have data caps?
Yes, AT&T bases data caps on service types and speed, but the primary data cap is 1 TB. It offers unlimited data for 1000 Mbps plans or bundles with U-verse TV or DIRECTV service. You can also purchase unlimited usage for an additional $30.00 a month, but bundling is more cost-effective.
What happens if I exceed my AT&T data allowance?
For every 50 GB over the limit, AT&T charges $10.00—up to $200.00 for DSL and fixed wireless internet or $100.00 for other AT&T internet services.
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. Please note that AT&T will send you email notices if you’re coming close to your cap.
Does Buckeye Broadband have data caps?
Yes, Buckeye Broadband has four data caps based on plan. However, it offers an unlimited data add-on for $30.00 per month.
What happens if I exceed my Buckeye Broadband data allowance?
Buckeye Broadband charges $10.00 for every additional 50 GB you use.
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 Cable ONE have data caps?
Cable ONE has a lot of data caps. Most of its plans are named after their target audience, and the download speeds and data caps associated with each plan reflect that demographic as well.
For bundled packages, the data caps are a bit smaller than the stand-alone packages with similar speeds. In contrast, many other companies incentivise bundling by raising caps or eliminating them all together. Although you’ll save money by bundling with Cable ONE, the stricter data limits are worth considering before you do.
There are a few exceptions to the data caps, though. This year Cable ONE started offering “Plus” plans without data caps in Fargo, North Dakota, and Odessa, Texas. And in Sioux City, Iowa, and Bartlesville, Oklahoma, you can add unlimited data to any “Plus” plan for $40.00 per month.
What happens if I exceed my Cable ONE data allowance?
In most regions, Cable ONE will require you to upgrade your plan after you go over your cap for three months (consecutive or nonconsecutive) in a rolling twelve-month period.
However, in Sioux City, Iowa, and Bartlesville, Oklahoma, you can get 100 GB of extra data for $10.00 (up to $50.00 max).
How do I track my Cable ONE data usage?
Cable ONE will let you know when you go over your data cap, but if you want to check how you’re doing, just log in to your account. You can even set up data usage alerts if you want to be careful.
Does CenturyLink have data caps?
Yes, CenturyLink monitors network congestion to make sure users receive a fair distribution of its resources. While CenturyLink considers 1 TB the benchmark for excessive usage, it doesn’t charge for overages.
What happens if I exceed my CenturyLink data allowance?
If you use more than 1 TB of data in a month, CenturyLink will give you the option to reduce your usage, subscribe to a higher-speed internet plan, or switch to a business plan. Users who don’t choose one of those options may have their service disconnected after 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 have data caps?
Yes, Cox caps all its internet plans at 1 TB of data. 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?
Cox charges $10.00 per additional 50 GB of data usage.
How do I track my Cox data usage?
Sign into your account or use your Cox Connect App to access your data usage meter. If you’re anywhere close to exceeding your amount, Cox will send you alerts to let you know.
Does Frontier have data caps?
No, Frontier 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.
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 cap data.
Does HughesNet have data caps?
Yes—while HughesNet has no hard data limits, each of its plans has 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 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 during 2 a.m.–8 a.m. Ready for an all-night bingeing session? You can also purchase “Data Tokens,” which will return you to 25 Mbps during normal hours.
How do I track my HughesNet data usage?
Log into your HughesNet account to track your data usage.
Does Mediacom have data caps?
Yes, Mediacom has five different data caps, one for each of its plans. Each plan 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 exceed my Mediacom data allowance?
Mediacom charges $10.00 for each additional increment of 50 GB you use.
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?
No, 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.
Does RCN have data caps?
No, RCN doesn’t cap data.
Does Spectrum have data caps?
No, Spectrum doesn’t use data caps.
Does Viasat have data caps?
Yes, Viasat (formerly Exede) has plans with data caps, but it’s also introducing three new unlimited data plans. These new plans aren’t available in all areas yet, but if the launch goes well, they may just change the game for satellite internet.
What happens if I exceed my Viasat data allowance?
Viasat won’t charge you overage, 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?
If you get your internet bill directly from Viasat instead of through DISH or another provider, you can track your usage through your online Viasat account.
Does Xfinity have data caps?
Yes, most Xfinity plans have a data cap of 1 TB. 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 $5.00 credit each month.
What happens if I exceed my Xfinity data allowance?
Xfinity will charge you $10.00 for every additional 50 GB of data, but it will not charge you over $200.00 each month. Additionally, you won’t be charged for the first two months you exceed 1 TB.
How do I track my Xfinity data usage?
Log into your Xfinity account or use your account mobile app to monitor your usage. You’ll also receive in-browser notices and emails when you’re nearing your data limit.
Choose the Right Plan for You
Most users don’t use enough data to notice their internet data cap at all, but if you have a household that streams HD content for hundreds of hours each month, you may want to opt for an unlimited data plan.
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.