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Tired of your movie night getting interrupted by your internet service provider’s warning email that you have consumed 99% of your monthly data? Yes, data caps are annoying. But there are options that give you either unlimited data or a big data allowance every month. What usually happens is that most people only consider download speeds when choosing an internet service provider (ISP). Whereas data limits can have a huge impact on your overall internet experience, and determining whether or not you are getting the value for you money. And, it is as important to consider this aspect of an internet service when subscribing to one.

Read on if you have been looking to understand how you can work your way around data caps the best.

Data Caps: A Quick Overview

Any activity you perform online—from scrolling social media to playing games—consumes data. And, a data cap is the limit your internet service provider imposes on your usage. So, when you exploit your internet data, you are bound to end up exceeding that limit in place. And, when that happens, you may have to face a consequence—depending on the provider you are subscribed to. Albeit, you don’t get hit by the aftermath without prior intimation.

Most ISPs notify you via email or text alerts as you near your data allowance limit, and also when you have surpassed it. Very few these days disconnect you, or suspend your account for this reason. A good number of ISPs in the U.S. simply let you use the internet as normal, but include the surplus charge in your next monthly bill. Albeit, there are some generous ISPs in the market too, who do not charge you for surplus data usage unless you exceed the limit pretty often.

Satellite internet providers are more of an exception to this general rule. HughesNet internet plans for example, are not categorized based on speed, but data allowance. So, once you have exceeded your monthly stipend of internet data, HughesNet throttles your internet speed—instead of 25 Mbps download you get 3 and instead of 3 Mbps upload you get 1.

Why Do Internet Service Providers Have Data Caps?

ISPs may refer to the data limit they impose by various names—however almost all of them claim data caps are placed in accordance with the “Fair Network Usage Policy”—meaning to ensure everyone connected to their network is served equally.

ISPs say their networks have limited capacity to support internet traffic. And, it is essential to keep everyone who is connected to the network under check. This way network congestion can be eased out, and every user gets a fair chance to connect to the internet. Some ISPs also insist placing data caps on internet usage helps keep the cost of internet low.

All in all, the ISP viewpoint is that with data caps in place, they are able to deliver a superior internet service to each subscriber. Albeit, a vast cross section of internet users views this logic with skepticism. Some say the available data allowance on mobile broadband packages has increased far too much relative to expansion of infrastructure. While others argue even with the recent rise in streaming video, ISPs have not really complained about a corresponding increase in network congestion. And some believe, data caps are only placed to “monetize a high fixed cost” i.e. to make money and not to ease congestion or ensure fair usage.

Whichever may be the real reason, fact is most internet users have to deal with this aspect of internet consumption. And, that alone makes it worth it to learn about how you maybe able to work your way around data caps.

What Type of Internet Usage Consumes Most of Your Data?

From streaming shows to sending emails, all online activities require data—some more and other less. For instance, the amount of data you would use while streaming HD videos is not equivalent to what you consume if only surfing the web, or streaming music. Similarly, data you consume during a video call is not the same as used during an audio call.

According to Netflix, streaming shows from their platform in SD and HD or Ultra HD consume up to 3GB and 7GB per hour respectively. Which means with the most commonly available data allowance of 1,024GB (1TB), you can enjoy 330 streaming hours in SD or 140 streaming hours in HD or Ultra HD every month.

Independent sources say a WhatsApp video call consumes about 25MB during a 5 minute call. While an audio call via WhatsApp eats an estimated 5MB during 5 minutes. Meaning, with a 1TB data allowance you can video chat and make audio calls to your hearts content, and you would still not run out of data.

This simple arithmetic with basic activities that you indulge in routinely, shows that 1TB data allowance can prove to be virtually unlimited, unless the number of connected users/devices is massive. So for standard household usage, it is highly unlikely that you would exceed this common data limit. If however, you are part of a large household, with passionate streamers and enthusiastic gamers, a 1TB data cap may sound pretty restricting.

Read on to find out how different U.S. ISPs approach this rather touchy aspect of their broadband service.

Do All Providers Include Data Limits?

In the market, you will find ISPs that offer unlimited data plans, and you’ll also come across those who are rather stingy about data. In-between these extremes are service providers who have placed a data cap on internet consumption, but a rather generous one—1024GB—which as we said earlier is the most commonly observed data limit with providers like Cox and Xfinity from Comcast.

There are also ISPs who make their data plans correspond to the download speed—with slow speed tiers they give you less data. But, when you go for a higher speed tier, you get more of it. For example , Mediacom Cable.

And, then there are still others—ISPs like AT&T, Suddenlink and CenturyLink—who place a data limit on some plans, and don’t on others.

Rise Broadband is one rare provider who offers Fixed Wireless plans with and without unlimited data. Meaning, you can get a 25/50 Mbps Rise Broadband plan with 250GB data or if you wish Unlimited.

Speaking of which ISPs such as Spectrum, RCN, and Optimum by Altice—all offer unlimited data plans regardless of which speed tier you pick.

Another thing you must remember is that, fiber optic internet is the one type of connection, that in almost all cases comes with an unlimited data offer. For instance, AT&T Fiber and CenturyLink Fiber.

Whichever internet service provider you may choose, before you select one, do check for their availability in your area. Click here, and let our smart search tool fetch you the best deals available in your neighborhood. Alternatively you can call us at 1-855-349-9328 and speak to a professional. They can help you assess your data needs as well as tell you all about the best available deals.

Nationwide Internet Providers and Their Data Caps
AT&T 150GB, 250GB, 1TB or Unlimited
Spectrum Unlimited
Cox 1.2 TB
Optimum Unlimited
Suddenlink 250GB, 350GB and Unlimited
Mediacom 1,000GB, 2,000GB, 6,000GB
CenturyLink 1TB and Unlimited
Xfinity 1.2TB
RCN Unlimited
Windstream Kinetic Unlimited
MetroNet Unlimited
HughesNet 10GB, 20GB, 30GB and 50GB
TDS 250GB and Unlimited
Rise Broadband 250GB and Unlimited
Grande Communications Unlimited
WOW! Unlimited
EarthLink Hyperlink™ Unlimited
Wave Broadband 400GB, 500GB and Unlimited

What Happens When You Exceed Your Data Limit?

Different internet providers have different policies with regards to usage of data. As we said earlier some may charge you for the surplus data used, and not throttle your internet speed. While others may throttle your speed until the next billing cycle begins. And almost all offer unlimited data at an extra cost.

For instance, AT&T Internet comes in a variety of types. And depending on your connection type you get either limited or unlimited data. However, the general rule with AT&T is that you pay $10 for every 50GB block of data used in excess. AT&T does place a maximum limit to surplus usage of data—meaning in case of a DSL or fixed wireless connection you can consume extra data worth $200 and not more. With an IPBB connection, you may use extra data worth $100 in one month and no more. But, AT&T gives you ways to get unlimited data as well. You can pay $30 to benefit from unlimited data allowance in any given month. Or else bundle your internet with AT&T TV or DIRECTV to receive unlimited data allowance. Find more about AT&T data caps here.

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Xfinity charges you $10 for each 50GB block of data that you use in excess of your allowance. But, Xfinity extends courtesy in that the first time you exceed the data limit in a 12-month period, you are not charged an overage fee. If however the instance repeats for a second month in that 12-month period, you are responsible for paying an overage fee. Xfinity allows consumers to use up to $100 worth of extra data in any given month. As with AT&T, you can get unlimited data with Xfinity for an additional $30.

Cox Communications has a $10 overage fee too for every 50GB block of data used in excess of your data allowance. But, the provider allows you to purchase 500GB data for $29.99 and Unlimited data for $49.99 if you sign up for an additional data plan.

CenturyLink does not charge you an overage fee, but may downgrade the service until the next billing cycle begins.

HughesNet, as we said earlier, throttles your speed when you go beyond your data limit. However with HughesNet internet you get 50GB Bonus data every month included in your plan. And, you also have the option to purchase data tokens at any time you need.

How Can I Monitor My Data Consumption?

Most nationwide ISPs these days offer you ways to keep an eye on your data consumption. For instance with Cox, you can either monitor data consumption via your Cox Account or the Cox Connect App. With AT&T, you can keep an eye on data usage via your myAT&T app or the Smart Home Manager app.

With most providers you can also opt to receive regular notifications when you cross certain milestones in your monthly data usage—via email or text. For example with AT&T you receive a warning when you have consumed 65%, 90% and 100% of your data allowance. While Cox intimates you when you have consumed 75%, 90%, 100% and 110% of your allocated monthly data.

We’d recommend when you sign up with an internet service provider, make sure to find out how you maybe able to monitor your data usage every month.

Bottom Line

Most people do not consume enough data to even find out they are on a capped internet plan. But, if you are a large family, and everybody loves to stream high-quality TV shows and movies on a daily basis, you will need an internet service provider who offers you an unlimited data plan. In any case, when the number of users is high, it is advisable to opt for a fiber optic connection if available in your area. And, that not only gives you unlimited data, but ultra fast speeds and an amazing bandwidth.

In case you have any questions, you can reach out to professionals at 1-855-349-9328 for expert advice, as well as for subscription.


1- Why is there a data cap on internet?

Internet service providers claim they implement data caps in order to ensure fair usage for all subscribers given the limitations of their network capabilities. Data caps are believed to deter users from consuming a lot of data which may cause network congestion.

2- Which internet provider has unlimited data?

Some internet providers like Optimum, Spectrum, RCN, and Windstream Kinetic give unlimited data with all of their plans. While others like CenturyLink and AT&T allow unlimited data with some of their plans, usually Fiber. Almost all providers give subscribers an unlimited data add-on option at additional cost.

3- How do I get around internet data caps?

Technically, you cannot get around your internet data cap. But, if you realize that you are crossing your data cap on a regular basis, you can enable data compression, use a VPN with compression, or install data-saving apps. Or else you can switch to an ISP which provides unlimited data.

4- Do internet plans have data caps?

Many internet service providers enforce data limits, but not every provider does so. With rapid advancements in internet technology, providers are increasing their data ceilings or eliminating data caps, while providing unlimited high-speed internet plans.

5- Are data caps legal?

Well, yes and no. While data caps are not considered against the law as far as they are covered by the “Fair Usage Policy”, the fact many believe this is not how internet must be delivered is equally true. In 2012, Senator Ron Wyden introduced a bill named Data Cap (or Measurement) Integrity Act in the US Senate, which banned data caps by internet service providers unless Federal Communications Commission certified them. Unfortunately, the bill never left the Senate.

6- How much data does the average person use per month?

As per the data collected by the Wall Street Journal, an average US household monthly data usage had gone up to 400 GB per month by the end of March, 2020.

7- Is unlimited data really unlimited?

Internet plans with unlimited data mean you would not have to pay any additional charges no matter how much data you consume. So, you can use as much data for your online activities as you want, as long as you are subscribed to that unlimited data plan.

8- Does uncapped mean unlimited?

Yes. An uncapped data plan means you can use as much data as you need to without having to pay an overage fee. Which is the same as unlimited data. If however you abuse your privilege, you maybe subject to a consequence according to the terms and conditions of service that apply to your internet plan.