What is an internet data cap or limit?
Some internet providers place a limit on the amount of data that each user can consume in a given month. This limit is often called a Data Cap.
The Internet service provider will monitor the internet data used each month and apply fees, slow down service or shut off access.
The type of activities you enjoy online will determine how often you hit these barriers. Downloading video games or binge-streaming TV shows use significantly more data than sending an email. Even activities such as browsing can add up if you have a large family that is online frequently.
What do you need to know about data caps?
Data caps can apply to mobile (cellular) and home Internet service plans. Using a mobile service as your home Internet provider is the most likely scenario where you will go over your allocated data limit — as you also use your mobile phone away from the home.
No matter the method of service delivery, you likely have a cap. Some providers charge a fee for data use over your monthly cap; other plans have a hard cap that shuts down your Internet access till you add more data. Fees for going over a capped plan can be $15-25 for additional data packs.
48% of Americans surveyed do not know their internet plan data cap.
Some unlimited data plans slow down your Internet speeds after a data limit has been hit. For example, you may have an unlimited plan with a monthly cap of 1.5 Terabytes with a speed of 100Mbps. When you hit the monthly limit of 1.5TB, your 50 Mbps will slow to 5 Mbps until next month. Even if your provider says you have “Unlimited” data, make sure you read the fine print.
How large of a data plan do you need?
When determining how much data you need, start by considering how much time you spend online per day. Turning on your laptop to check your email once daily doesn’t require fast speeds and uses little data. But you will need a much larger plan if you have five people in a household and you all have cell phones, tablets, laptops, gaming systems, and don’t forget the smart toasters or smart thermostats.
Consider your behaviors online. A large family that spends more time streaming, checking social media, and playing video games, may want an unlimited plan or a plan with a high data cap. Your household is likely to use more data at different times of the year: such as holidays or during summer vacation.
37% hit their data cap during the pandemic.
68% of those paid overage fees.
Understanding data caps can seem complicated when calculating how much time you spend online and performing an inventory of all the devices just to pick a plan.