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What are Internet Data Caps?
Some internet service providers set a limit on the amount of data their customers can use per account each month. This is known as an internet data cap. Nearly any activity you perform on the internet will require some amount of data transfer, even if you are just checking email or doing some quick browsing.
Before you enter into an agreement with an internet service provider, it is important to understand what your internet data cap will be and what will happen if you exceed that data cap. Some providers impose overage charges to customers who exceed their data cap while other providers throttle download speeds instead.
We’ve created this quick and easy guide to help you navigate through the world of internet data caps, which providers have them, which don’t and how it will affect your internet usage.
|Provider||Data Cap||Overage||Type of Internet|
|AT&T||150 GB to 1 TB, DSL Unlimited, Fiber||$10 for each additional 50 GB||Fiber, DSL|
|CenturyLink||1 TB||None||Fiber, DSL|
|Cox||1 TB to Unlimited||$10 for each additional 50 GB||Fiber, Cable|
|Mediacom||400 GB to 1,000 GB||$10 for each additional 50 GB||Fiber, Cable|
|Xfinity||1 TB to Unlimited||$10 for each additional 50 GB||Cable|
|HughesNet||10 to 50 GB||None||Satellite|
Internet Providers Without Data Caps
If the internet users in your home are heavy data users, you may determine that an internet provider with no data caps is the best financial option for your needs. You may also just prefer the peace of mind of not having to monitor data usage. There are several internet service providers who offer internet plans with no data caps.
Internet Providers with Data Caps
If you live in an area where no internet service providers without data caps are available, or if you access your internet needs and determine you can save money by going with a limited data plan, there are several internet providers that offer plans with data limits.
Internet Providers with Unlimited Data for a Fee
If you’d prefer the lower cost of a limited data internet plan, but with the flexibility of upgrading to an unlimited plan for an extra cost, there are a few internet service providers who offer this option:
Internet Data Caps by Provider
When reviewing different internet providers to determine their internet data caps, it is important to note that some internet providers have caps, some do not and some take a hybrid approach. Additionally, not all providers charge overages if the specified internet data cap is exceeded.
As an AT&T DSL customer, you can choose from 150 GB up to 1 TB of data depending on the plan you select. Under these plans, if you go over your data cap, you will be charged $10 for every 50 GB of data over your cap. However, if you are an AT&T Fiber customer, you can enjoy unlimited data without restriction.
Verizon Fios customers can enjoy high-speed fiber internet with no data caps.
CenturyLink offers 1 TB of data for both fiber and DSL customers. However, they do not charge overages if you exceed 1 TB. Instead, they reserve the right to throttle back your internet speeds and if this issue is not resolved, they will reach out with a letter to discuss a resolution.
Google Fiber internet plans are offered without any data restrictions.
Cox offers a variety of internet packages with data caps ranging from 1 TB to unlimited. The higher the data cap, the higher the package cost. If you exceed the data cap of your plan, you will be charged $10 for every 50 GB you go over your cap. This applies to both fiber and cable internet plans.
Mediacom offers both cable and fiber packages, with data caps ranging from 400 GB to 1,000 GB. If you exceed the data cap specified by the plan you’ve selected, you will be charged $10 for every 50 GB of data exceeding the cap.
Spectrum offers high-speed cable plans to customers with no hassle of data caps. All plans include unlimited data.
Xfinity customers can choose cable packages with data caps of 1 TB all the way up to unlimited data caps. Excluding customers with unlimited plans, exceeding the data cap of any package will result in a $10 charge for every 50 GB exceeded up to a maximum of $200.
Kinetic offers DSL packages with unlimited data, meaning no data caps and no overages.
HughesNet offers satellite internet with data caps ranging from 10 to 50 GB depending on the plan. Although they do not charge overages, you may notice your internet speed slowing down after you’ve reached your data cap.
How Will Data Caps Affect Your Internet Use?
So, how can you possibly know how much data you will need? There are a few easy ways to determine a suitable range to meet your internet usage needs. AT&T’s data calculator is a helpful tool you can use to enter in your specific usage patterns and determine your data needs.
Let’s assume you are a basic user who checks email, browses the web and makes social media posts. If you sent or received 40,000 messages, made 300 social media posts and spent 250 hours surfing the web each month, you will need around 11.65 GB of data.
Now, let’s assume you are a moderate user who does all the things a basic user does but also streams 100 hours of music and 100 hours of HD video each month. You will need around 262 GB of data each month.
Finally, if you are a heavy user who does all the things a moderate user does, but also streams 4K video for 100 hours and does online gaming for 100 hours each month. Your data needs climb up to over 800 GB/mo.
If all you use the internet for is to check email, you could possibly get by with under 10 GB of data each month. However, if you’re a heavy gamer and stream a lot of 4K video and music, those numbers can quickly creep up to nearly 1,000 GB a month or more.
- Email only: .00016 GB per email
- Web surfing only: .015 GB per hour of web surfing
- Gaming only: .012 GB per hour
- 4K Video: 5.65 GB per hour
To Sum It Up
Internet data caps are an important part of understanding and selecting the best internet service provider and internet plan for your needs. Selecting a plan with data caps but not enough data can result in overage charges, throttled down speeds and the worry of regularly checking how much data has been used. There are a number of internet service providers who offer plans with data caps, without data caps and some who offer a mixture of both data caps and unlimited options.