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The use of internet data in American homes is increasing by the day. A report published by Statista reveals in 2020 the average American had access to 10+ connected devices in their household. However the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only factor that has contributed to the shift. While it is true our day to day digital lifestyle has witnessed major changes in the past 2 years, data usage was on its way up in American homes even before the pandemic hit.

Perhaps the biggest factor contributing to the increased internet data usage in recent times is that Americans love digital entertainment, and the passion is common to all age groups - be it Matures, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials or Gen Z. The financial crunch faced by a significant number of households, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, has certainly driven users to think about dropping entertainment subscriptions. But with lifestyle changes that have come to set in over the past 2 years, average internet data consumption still lurks around 400-450 GB.

This necessitates that you are aware of how much data is eaten up by online activities you are used to conducting, how can you manage your data consumption, and which internet data providers would be your best bet. Our article today talks about various aspects related to data consumption - read on so you’re able to take effective measures to manage data usage, as well as choose better when it comes to internet data providers.  

What are Internet Data Caps?

To put it simply, a data cap is a limitation an ISP places on your monthly data usage. Like the maximum download and upload speeds your service plan delivers, there is also a specific data allowance that you can consume each month. And this allowance accounts for all the data you download or upload. In fact, it is pretty similar to how you’re cellular service plan may limit talk time, texting, and internet data consumption.   

Internet service providers vindicate the practice of imposing a data cap as an essential measure taken to safeguard the interest of all subscribers on their network. It is argued there is only limited bandwidth on a provider’s network and every user must get a fair share of it. However, in recent times, infrastructure costs have decreased making it cheaper for the internet data providers to increase network capacity so as to meet the higher demand. And so critics of data caps believe the arbitrary limit on usage is unnecessary.

From the consumer’s viewpoint, data caps can be a real pain and also the cause of more expensive. Particularly so when you’re in a large household where multiple devices connect and online activities are bandwidth-extensive.  

 

What Happens When You Exceed the Internet Data Cap?

Different providers have different terms and conditions as far as breaching the data cap is concerned.

Most U.S. internet data providers charge you a data overage fee when you exceed the allowance on your service plan - more often than not the fee is around $10 for every 50 GB block of data used in excess. And shows up on your bill for the month wherein you commit the breach. Some ISPs however are more courteous than others, and they let you go off the first time you exceed your allowance in a 12-month period.

Also, there are internet data providers which do not charge you an overage fee and don’t throw you offline either, but they do throttle the download and upload speeds of your connection until the next billing cycle kicks in. Such ISPs usually allow you to purchase additional data during the month so you can continue using the internet at standard speeds.

How High an Internet Data Cap Can Work For You?

Regular downloads of heavy files, video streaming, video chatting, and online gaming are types of activities that put a very heavy strain on your data allowance. And, if you have smart home devices and/or a smart security system that adds to data usage. Essentially, as the number of users and devices in a household goes up, and activities become more bandwidth-extensive, the data consumption goes up.

So, if you are a big family where the internet is not only used to work from home or attend online lectures, but fun activities such as streaming TV and competitive online gaming are routine, you will need at least up to 1 TB data allowance. On the other hand, a small family, which uses the internet for bandwidth-heavy activities only occasionally, is unlikely to require even 1 TB.  

So go ahead and make a fair assessment of what kind of activities do you use the internet for, and how many users and devices at your home need a data connection - this way you will be able to make a better choice when shopping for an internet plan.

How to Manage Your Data Usage

Keeping an eye on your data usage on a periodic basis is one of the most practical and fruitful ways to curb excessive consumption, and save yourself from facing an unpleasant consequence. Almost all major ISPs provide users with a mobile app that gives you the easiest way to track data consumption. Everything is at your fingertips making it convenient for you to stay on top of things. And you’re better able to space out the consumption of internet data through the 30-day billing cycle.

Also, keep in mind there are always ways to save data with a little compromise on quality. For instance, when you stream video via a streaming service, there is almost always an option to adjust the video quality. And when used smartly these settings can actually help you see a significant reduction in data usage.

Internet Data Providers & Internet Data Caps

The U.S. industry depicts internet data providers that offer service plans with a data cap, and also the ones that don’t cap your consumption. Still, others offer both options which may or may not be available simultaneously in each service location. It all depends on the area you are residing in, and the ISPs serving your neighborhood.

Here is a listing of major internet data providers in the U.S. Find out how these ISPs go about data usage on service plans:

AT&T 

AT&T chooses to play it differently with the various types of internet services it offers - essentially owing to network type and capacity.

  • All AT&T Fiber plans come with unlimited data
  • AT&T high-speed Internet speed tiers up to 75 Mbps allow you 1 TB of data. But the 100 Mbps plan gets you unlimited.
  • AT&T Fixed Wireless plans are capped at 350 GB

AT&T charges you a $10 overage fee for every additional 50 GB block of data that you use on top of your data allowance. But you can also purchase unlimited data for $30 in any given month if you feel the need for extra room in order to stay on top of things.  

The myAT&T app helps you track your data usage, and plan your month better. Also, you receive email notifications when you have used 65%, 90%, and 100% of your allowance.

One good to know the thing is if you bundle your AT&T Internet plan - which has a data cap - with DIRECTV or DIRECTV STREAM, you get unlimited data without an added cost.

Cox Communications

Cox Communications imposes a data cap on all its speed-based plans and gives you 1.25 TB of data every month. As we said earlier, from the viewpoint of standard usage across American homes, that is virtually unlimited. If you come to think, it is more than equivalent to watching 200 HD movies in a month. Or for that matter downloading and uploading 10,000+ images.

Cox charges $10 as an overage fee for a 50 GB block of data that you use in excess of your allowance. But lets you off with a warning the first time you breach the data cap.

You can also purchase add-on data to power increased data usage in any given month - Cox offers a 500 GB and an unlimited add-on data plan. But Unlimited is more expensive with Cox relative to AT&T - Cox charges you $50.

If you choose to rent the Cox Panoramic WiFi Gateway, you get a convenient way of tracking your data consumption. The Panoramic WiFi app gives you complete control over your in-home network, and you can easily keep an eye on the daily data consumption.  

Xfinity from Comcast 

Xfinity offers service plans with a data allowance of 1.2 TB in its Western and Central service regions. So if you are in California or Alabama, for instance, you’ll find Xfinity Internet plans capped at 1.2 TB. But if you are fortunate and residing in Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, you will not have to contend with an internet data cap. Xfinity has put the rollout of the data cap in its northeastern service region on hold at least for 2022.

Xfinity gives you a one courtesy month, and so the first time you exceed the data allowance in a 12-month period, you are not charged the $10 overage fee. The overage fee is charged for each 50 GB block of data used in excess of your allowance.

If used in your home leans towards an unlimited plan, Xfinity offers you to sign up for xFi Complete at $25/mo. The package includes the advanced and innovative xFi Gateway and unlimited data. The unlimited data add-on would otherwise cost you $30 on its own.

Mediacom

Mediacom offers five different internet plans. These plans are categorized based on speed and data. And, Mediacom allocates data in line with the speed.

So the starter plan, which gives you 100 Mbps downloads, comes with 1000 GB (1 TB). The 300 Mbps plan offers 2,000 GB (2 TB) data every month. And the Gig plan gets you an awesome 6000 GB (6 TB) data.

While the internet data cap is super-high with Mediacom, if your usage does exceed, you’ll be charged $10 for each 50 GB block of data used on top of your monthly allowance.  

WOW!

WOW! is another internet data provider which offers both capped and uncapped internet plans depending on which service region you may be in. For instance, if you are in the Chicago area, you’ll have to contend with a data cap - by all means is super high. With WOW! Internet 100 you get 1.5 TB, the 200 Mbps speed tier comes with 2.5 TB and there is 3 TB data with the Gig service.

Like so you get a virtually unlimited data allowance with each plan. If you still need more, there is unlimited data for $30 to help you get through a month of heavy usage. 

The data overage fee with WOW! is $10 for each 50 GB block of data you use in excess of the allowance. But the provider waives it off the first time a breach occurs.

Rise Broadband

Rise Broadband is one of the top-most Fixed Wireless providers in the U.S. with a significant footprint across rural and suburban regions. The good thing about Rise Broadband is you get the choice. If you are a heavy internet user, opt for the unlimited data plan. And if you can get by with 250 GB of data every month, stick to the lower-priced plan with an internet data cap.

When you exceed your data limit on a capped service plan, the internet data provider charges you $5 for each 10 GB block of data used in excess.

HughesNet

HughesNet offers capped data-based plans ubiquitously - subscribers residing anywhere under its coast-to-coast network coverage primarily get to choose from 4 data-based service tiers i.e. 15 GB, 30 GB, 45 GB, and 75 GB. And, in select locations, you may also see a 100 GB plan on offer.

As you can see the data allowance is pretty small relative to the wired internet data providers we have mentioned earlier. And that is essential because HughesNet delivers its service via a satellite communications infrastructure. With that said, HughesNet supplements the data allowance with each service plan by giving customers additional 50 GB Bonus Zone data, which accounts for online activity during the off-peak hours between 2 am and 8 am.

Also, while each plan comes with an internet data cap, there are no hard limits and you never go offline even after you run out of the allowance. There is also no overage fee. What however does happen is the speed of your connection is throttled, unless you purchase additional data or until the next billing cycle begins.  

Final Take

With the average home usage maxing out at 450 GB, it is likely you will not face issues with any internet data provider which offers up to 1 TB allowance - and most do. But if your data consumption exceeds standard home usage patterns, it is better to seek an internet service that offers unlimited plans.

There are quite a few ISPs with nationwide coverage and plans which include unlimited data in the monthly service cost - for instance, Spectrum, Windstream, Optimum, Suddenlink and EarthLink

The bottom line remains, you must know how much data do you require in a month. If you have a fairly accurate estimate, you’ll know which internet data providers to pick from and which plans to opt for. In any case, if you need pro advice on the matter at the time of shopping, speak to an expert at 1-855-349-9328 and they will help you choose from options available at your address.  

FAQs

Which internet data providers offer unlimited plans?

Spectrum, Windstream, Optimum, Suddenlink and EarthLink offer plans with unlimited data. Even with AT&T, if you are in an area where the 100 Mbps high-speed Internet plan or AT&T Fiber is available, you will get unlimited data.

Can I stream content in 4K HD with less than a 1 TB data allowance?

Streaming 4K video can make you consume up to 16 GB of data in one hour. So while you can sure stream in 4K with a 1 TB data allowance occasionally, you may risk running out of data if you do so routinely.

How much data does a family need?

Statistical data tells the average American household consumes anywhere between 400 and 450 GB of data every month. If however, your consumption of the internet leans toward bandwidth-extensive activities, it may be better for you to look for an unlimited data plan.    

Why do internet service providers use data caps?

Internet service providers impose data caps as a measure to safeguard the interest of all users on their network. By having a data cap in place it is ensured subscribers do not utilize the limited bandwidth of the network excessively thus causing network congestion.

How do I track my data usage?

The easiest way to track your data usage is to monitor activity via the app provided by your ISP. You can view your usage summary and better pace yourself out through the month.