If you’ve found yourself spending more time at home because of the pandemic, you may also be surfing the internet frequently, streaming Netflix, or maybe playing additional hours of video games. If this is the case, you might’ve noticed fees in your internet bill for going over your plan’s data cap limit.
Data caps—a limitation on the amount of data used each month—are a common part of internet plans, but several internet service providers (ISPs) offer plans with unlimited data or high data caps. Here, we take a deeper look into what data caps are and how they affect your internet experience, which providers offer internet plans with no data caps, and more.
Pros and Cons of Internet Plans With No Data Caps
- No overage fees
- Unlimited broadband access to browse, stream, and download
- No cap on the length of time you use the internet
- Great for large households with power internet users and multiple devices
- Potentially higher monthly fees
- You may not actually need unlimited data
- May experience slower internet speeds
Everything You Need to Know About Data Caps
What is a data cap?
Most internet providers typically issue monthly data restrictions, which is why you’ll frequently come across data caps when shopping for an internet plan. Essentially, a data cap limits the amount of data you’re able to use in your billing period, meaning your time browsing the internet, downloading files, streaming, and playing online games is restricted to an allotted amount. If you go over your data allowance, you’ll be responsible for an overage fee, which varies depending on your contract.
In 2018, research by iGR concluded that the average household data usage was 269 GB per month1. However, the same study found that the number of households that used a terabyte of data or more per month had significantly increased from the previous year. When considering if your household needs unlimited data, it’s important to keep these statistics in mind.
How do data caps affect internet speeds?
If you go over your monthly data cap, your internet speeds may slow down as a consequence. However, if you opt for a plan with unlimited data, internet providers still reserve the right to slow down your internet speeds based on how much internet you’re using2. For example, if your ISP notices that you’re using more data than anticipated, they may slow down your internet connection.
Why do data caps exist?
One of the main reasons why some internet providers employ data caps while others offer unlimited data is because they can only produce so much bandwidth. In order to discourage customers from using too much data and slowing down the speed for others, they require data caps in their plans which follows the “pay as you go” model.
Who should consider signing up for an internet plan with no data caps?
If your household has several power internet users, or people who frequently download large files, stream videos, or play online games, or if you find that your household often reaches or exceeds your current data cap limits, it may be worth looking into a plan with unlimited data.
Common Internet Activities That Use the Most Data
As previously mentioned, there are certain internet activities that consume a lot of data. These include:
- Streaming 4K Video, 7GB per hour
- Streaming HD Video, 3GB per hour
- Streaming 480p Video, 700MG per hour
- Social Media, 156MB per hour
- Streaming Music, 150MB per hour
- Online Gaming, 60MB per hour
Some of the Top Internet Providers With No Data Caps
Listed below are some of the most popular internet providers that offer internet plans with no data cap restrictions.
|Internet Provider||Connection Type||Speeds up to||Lowest Monthly Price|
|Verizon Fios||Fiber||940 Mbps||$39.99|
|Xfinity from Comcast||Cable||2000 Mbps||$49.95|
|Frontier||DSL + Fiber||940 Mbps||$27.99|
|Optimum||Cable + Fiber||940 Mbps||$59.99|
|Google Fiber||Fiber||1000 Mbps||$70|
- Spectrum: As one of the only internet providers that do not employ data caps with any of their plans, Spectrum offers speeds up to 940 Mbps with plans as low as $49.99 per month. They offer cable internet in 44 states with the greatest coverage in California, Texas, and New York.
- Verizon Fios: Verizon Fios’ fiber connection has speeds up to 940 Mbps with plans for as low as $39.99 per month. Keep in mind that their fiber coverage is limited as they only provide service to nine states with the greatest coverage in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
- Xfinity from Comcast: Xfinity has speeds up to 2000 Mbps with their fiber plan and cable plans as low as $49.95 per month. They offer service in 39 states with the greatest coverage in California, Florida, and Illinois.
- Frontier Communications: Providing service to 26 states with the greatest coverage in California, Florida, and Connecticut, Frontier offers both DSL and fiber connections with speeds up to 940 Mbps at prices as low as $27.99 per month.
- Optimum: As the fourth largest cable provider in the country, Optimum offers both cable and fiber internet plans with speeds as high as 940 Mbps for prices as low as $59.99 per month. They only provide coverage to Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
- Google Fiber: Offering fiber connection to only 10 states with the greatest coverage in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas, Google Fiber offers speeds as high as 1000 Mbps with plans as low as $70 per month.
Internet Providers with Unlimited Data for an Additional Cost
If the providers above aren’t offering service in your area, you may be able to add on unlimited data for an added fee with the ISPs listed below.
|Internet Provider||Connection Type||Additional Monthly Fee for Unlimited Data||Speeds up to|
|AT&T Internet||DSL + Fixed Wireless||$30||1000 Mbps|
Internet Providers With High Data Caps
As mentioned earlier, one of the cons of internet plans with small data cap restrictions is that providers may throttle or slow down your internet speeds if you’re consuming more data than anticipated—or slap on a pricy overage fee. Either way there’s no winning, unless you opt for a plan with a very high data cap that you won’t exceed, and therefore won’t have to pay for additional data fees or worry about your speeds being slowed down.
|Internet Provider||Connection Type||Max Data Cap||Speeds up to||Lowest Monthly Rate|
|Cox||Cable||1280 GB||940 Mbps||$29.99|
|CenturyLink||Fiber||1024 GB||940 Mbps||$49|
The following providers have lifted the restrictions of data caps due to the pandemic:
- Verizon: For the remainder of the year, Verizon is offering customers that qualify for their low-income Lifeline discount program plans for $19.99 per month with speeds up to 200 Mbps and unlimited data.3
- CenturyLink: Through August 1, CenturyLink is offering unlimited data to residential and small business customers as well as payment plans for qualifying customers.4
- Comcast: Although they are no longer offering unlimited data, they extended data caps to 1.2 TB.5
There are several pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not a plan with unlimited data is right for your household. A good starting point is to look at your recent internet bills and see how much data your household used in the previous months. If you keep exceeding those data caps, it may be worth it to opt for an internet plan with no data cap or a very high data cap of 1 TB. It also may be worthwhile to see if you qualify for the deals some internet providers are offering during the pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions About Internet Providers with No Data Caps
Do all internet providers have a data cap?
Not all internet providers issue data cap restrictions. Some providers (like Spectrum and Verizon Fios) offer internet plans with unlimited data, while others (like AT&T Internet and Cox) offer the option to add on unlimited data for an extra fee.
How can I bypass internet service provider data caps?
Unfortunately you can’t bypass internet service provider data caps. However, there are ways to save data so you don’t go over and have to pay an overage fee. You can make all your plugins click to play so videos don’t play automatically. You can disable images as well.
Why is there a data cap on the internet?
There are data caps on the internet because internet service providers only have a certain amount of bandwidth. In order to regulate how much internet their customers use so as to not slow it down for other customers, they require data caps with some of their plans. If you’d prefer not to have data caps, there are plans with unlimited data that you can opt for.
Are data caps legal?
Data caps are in fact legal, as there are currently no laws governing them. Internet providers have data caps in some of their plans to ensure that there is enough bandwidth to go around for their customers.
- https://igr-inc.com/advisory-subscription-services/wireless-mobile-landscape/us_home_broadband_wifi_forecast_2020.asp ↩
- https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/all-4-mobile-carriers-launched-unlimited-plans-this-week-should-you-switch.html ↩
- https://www.verizon.com/about/news/update-verizon-serve-customers-covid-19 ↩
- https://news.centurylink.com/covid-19-faqs#How%20is%20CenturyLink%20supporting%20customers%20that%20are%20impacted%20by%20COVID-19? ↩
- https://corporate.comcast.com/covid-19 ↩