Which Internet Service Providers Have Data Caps?

Imagine you’re happily streaming your favorite show when your phone buzzes—it’s an email from your internet service provider (ISP). You’re about to exceed your data cap. You didn’t even realize you had a data cap, and now you’re forced to make a choice: forego your weekend Insecure bingeing for the rest of the month or pay to purchase more data. Or, even worse, you don’t find out until you get the bill and see the charge.

Many providers have data caps, but most tuck them away in the fine print. Wouldn’t it be nice to know this in advance? Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve got the caps for all the major providers right here. Read on to see what your provider’s data limit is.

Which providers have data caps?

ProviderType of serviceData capMonthly data capOverage fees
AT&TDSL, FiberYes1 TB–Unlimited $10/50 GB
RCNFiberNoUnlimitedNone
XfinityCableYes1.2 TB$10/50 GB
FrontierDSL, FiberNoUnlimitedNone
Google FiberFiberNoUnlimitedNone
CenturyLinkDSL, FiberYes1 TB–UnlimitedNone
WindstreamDSL, FiberNoUnlimitedNone
SpectrumCableNoUnlimitedNone
Cox CommunicationsCableYes1.25 TB$10/50 GB
OptimumCableNoUnlimitedNone
Suddenlink CommunicationsCableYes250 GB–Unlimited$15/50 GB
MediacomCableYes60–6,000 GB$10/50 GB
EarthLinkFiber and DSLNoUnlimitedNone
Starry InternetFixed wirelessNoUnlimitedNone
Buckeye BroadbandCableYes10 GB–Unlimited$10/50 GB.
HughesNetSatelliteYes10 GB–50 GB (followed by internet slowdown)None
ViasatSatelliteYes40 GB–150 GB (followed by internet slowdown)None
ProviderAT&T
Type of serviceDSL, Fiber
Data capYes
Monthly data cap1 TB–Unlimited
Overage fees$10/50 GB
ProviderRCN
Type of serviceFiber
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderXfinity
Type of serviceCable
Data capYes
Monthly data cap1.2 TB
Overage fees$10/50 GB
ProviderFrontier
Type of serviceDSL, Fiber
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderGoogle Fiber
Type of serviceFiber
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderCenturyLink
Type of serviceDSL, Fiber
Data capYes
Monthly data cap1 TB–Unlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderWindstream
Type of serviceDSL, Fiber
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderSpectrum
Type of serviceCable
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderCox Communications
Type of serviceCable
Data capYes
Monthly data cap1.25 TB
Overage fees$10/50 GB
ProviderOptimum
Type of serviceCable
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderSuddenlink Communications
Type of serviceCable
Data capYes
Monthly data cap250 GB–Unlimited
Overage fees$15/50 GB
ProviderMediacom
Type of serviceCable
Data capYes
Monthly data cap60–6,000 GB
Overage fees$10/50 GB
ProviderEarthLink
Type of serviceFiber and DSL
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderStarry Internet
Type of serviceFixed wireless
Data capNo
Monthly data capUnlimited
Overage feesNone
ProviderBuckeye Broadband
Type of serviceCable
Data capYes
Monthly data cap10 GB–Unlimited
Overage fees$10/50 GB.
ProviderHughesNet
Type of serviceSatellite
Data capYes
Monthly data cap10 GB–50 GB (followed by internet slowdown)
Overage feesNone
ProviderViasat
Type of serviceSatellite
Data capYes
Monthly data cap40 GB–150 GB (followed by internet slowdown)
Overage feesNone

Find the best internet providers in your area:

  • Data dap: 1 TB–Unlimited
  • Overage Fees: $10 per 50 GB

Does AT&T have data caps?

Update: In the first months of the global coronavirus pandemic, AT&T offered financial breaks as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Keep Americans Connected Pledge. The pledge expired on June 30, but AT&T will continue to waive data overage charges for some internet customers until September 30. The offer applies to AT&T Fiber and AT&T Internet customers. It excludes those on DSL and fixed-wireless plans.

AT&T has a data cap of 1 TB—meaning 1,000 gigabytes—for most plans, with an overage fee of $10.00 per each additional 50 GB. That’s par for the course with ISPs, and 1 TB is plenty for most people, though we always prefer unlimited where possible. AT&T will give you two warnings before you’re charged monthly overage fees, so you get a chance to figure out what’s using all your data if you’re going over unintentionally.

The exception is the AT&T Internet 1000 plan, which has unlimited data. That makes sense—this plan has speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, so you’ll want to use that as much as possible. You can also avoid data caps by paying $30.00 a month for an unlimited data allowance. Or you can bundle AT&T Internet with DIRECTV or AT&T TV, which will get you an automatic unlimited data usage allowance—essentially a built-in $30 discount.

  • No data caps

Does RCN have data caps?

No, RCN doesn’t have data caps for any of its plans. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

  • Data dap: 1.2 TB
  • Overage fees: $10 per 50 GB

Does Xfinity have data caps?

Xfinity has a data cap of 1.2 TB per month, with an overage fee of $10.00 per each additional 50 GB. However, Xfinity will give you one month of overages before it starts charging fees. In other words, you can use over 1.2 TB of data in two separate billing periods with just a warning, but you’ll be charged on the third time. Xfinity also offers a handy usage meter for checking how close you are to your cap.

If you want the Unlimited Data Option, you can get it for an extra $50.00 per month. If you’re using more than 250 GB of extra data consistently, this option works out to be cheaper than paying the overages, so spending those 50 clams might be worth it.

  • No data caps

Does Frontier have data caps?

Nope, Frontier doesn’t have any data caps. Customers are free to download as many 40 GB video games they want without worrying about going over a limit—no strings attached.

  • No data caps

Does Google Fiber have data caps?

Hm, let’s check (*searches “Google Fiber data caps” on Google*). Nope, no data caps here. Feel free to use as much data as you like.

  • No data caps

Does Windstream have data caps?

Windstream doesn’t have any data caps or usage limits in place. This is a refreshing stance in an industry that usually has fine print and hidden clauses.

  • No data caps

Does Spectrum have data caps?

Spectrum does not enforce any data caps. When the FCC approved the merger of Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House into the single brand of Spectrum, it ruled that the new provider couldn’t charge overages or impose data caps for at least seven years. Although it may not last forever, that’s great news for consumers now.

  • Data cap: 1.25 TB
  • Overage fees: $10 per 50 GB

Does Cox have data caps?

Cox has a 1.25 TB data cap for all internet plans. 1.25 TB is fairly generous, although it’s still possible for heavy streamers to exceed this. If you do, you’ll pay the industry standard of $10.00 for each 50 GB of extra data you use.

If you think you’ll regularly use more than the 1 TB of data provided, Cox has a couple of bonus data plans you can subscribe to. You can get an extra 500 GB for $29.99 per month or go unlimited for an additional $49.99 per month. Those extra fees could really add up, but if you’re constantly racking up additional charges from exceeding your data limit, you might actually end up saving money going this route.

  • No data caps

Does Optimum have data caps?

Optimum does not have data caps. The New York–based provider is part of a growing breed that doesn’t limit your data usage. The company does reserve the right to limit use that it considers “excessive,” which could include downloading unusually large numbers of files or other activities that might impact network performance in a negative way. For most users, though, it’s unlimited all the way.

  • Data cap: 60–6,000 GB
  • Overage fees: $10 per 50 GB

Does Mediacom have data caps?

Yes, Mediacom has data caps. They vary widely from package to package but are generous once you get to the faster plans. For some plans, the cap is so high it might as well be unlimited. Just as a reference for comparing these data caps to other providers, 1,000 GB is equal to 1 TB.

Mediacom charges $10.00 per 50 GB of data over the cap. While we at HighSpeedInternet.com prefer no caps, this is one we could live with.

Does Starry Internet have data caps?

No, Starry Internet doesn’t do data caps. You get all the data you need to download big files, run smart home devices, play games online, and stream your favorite movies and shows in 4K.

  • Data cap: 10 GB–Unlimited
  • Overage fees: $10 per 100 GB

Does Buckeye Broadband have data caps?

Yes. Each of the Buckeye Broadband plans has a different data cap, starting at 10 GB for the lowest-end package. The cap increases with speed, with the gigabit plan having a 1 TB data cap.

Buckeye also offers customers the option to purchase 150 GB of data for $15 per month or unlimited data for an additional $30 per month, regardless of your plan. Whether that’s worth it or not depends heavily on your usage.

Exceeding the data limit on your plan will cost you $10 per 50 GB.

  • Data cap: 10 GB–50 GB
  • No overage fees

Does HughesNet have data caps?

Yes, HughesNet has data caps. However, it works a bit differently than other providers. No matter what plan you get with HughesNet, your speed remains the same (25 Mbps). What does change from plan to plan is the amount of monthly data you get, starting at 10 GB and going up to 50 GB.

Another unique thing about HughesNet is that you won’t be charged an overage fee for exceeding your limit. Instead, the provider throttles your connection speed down to 1–3 Mbps. Whether this is better than paying a fee for more data at full speed is a matter of opinion, but 3 Mbps is pretty slow.

  • Data cap: 40 GB–150 GB
  • No overage fees

Does Viasat have data caps?

Viasat says it has unlimited data, but it still has limits on data usage. But you don’t get punished with overage charges like you would with a cable or DSL provider. Instead you’ll just have to deal with a really slow connection.

The amount of GB you get from Viasat depends on your plan. If you go over, Viasat will lay down the law by “deprioritizing” your traffic. That means when you click on a video or email, it will send a request to Viasat’s network. Viasat will then push you to the bottom of the list to make way for internet users who haven’t yet used up their allotted GB for the month.

It’s basically the satellite internet equivalent of the doorman at a fancy nightclub making you wait in line as he opens the velvet rope for dozens of well-dressed VIPs. Technically you’re getting “unlimited” internet, but in practice you’ll be the scrub standing outside in the rain.

If you find this happening on the regular, consider investing in a plan with a higher data cap.

Pro tip:

Read our internet data guide for tips on how to avoid data overage charges.

What is a data cap?

A data cap is the maximum amount of internet you’re allowed to use per month. It’s also commonly referred to by internet providers as “data usage,” “data limit,” “usage allowance,” or “fair use policy.”

Everything you do on the internet uses data. Whether you’re checking a couple emails or binge-watching The Crown in 4K, you’re using megabytes or even gigabytes of data. And all of that counts toward your monthly limit.

Think of it like groceries. A professional chef who loves to make lavish dinners for his family will require more foodstuffs in his pantry than a bachelor who eats Top Ramen every night. But both of them need to eat to survive. And you’ll need data no matter what your appetite is for the internet.

Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) impose a monthly limit—or “data cap”—on the amount of gigabytes you can burn through each month. Depending on your ISP and your plan, that limit could range anywhere from a generous 1 terabyte (equaling 1,000 gigabytes) to a paltry 40 gigabytes.

However, some providers don’t impose data caps. They may still have fair use policies in place to prevent you from abusing the service, but generally you’ll be free to use as much data as you like.

Type in your zip code blow to see if there’s a provider that offers unlimited data in your area:

What happens if you go over your data limit?

Going over your monthly data limit can lead to costly overage charges—many providers tack on $10 for every 50 GB you go over per month. Even if you go just one gigabyte over your limit, you’ll still be paying for all 50 of those extra gigs you’ll have to buy.

Other providers—namely satellite internet providers HughesNet and Viasat—have a “soft cap.” Instead of charging you when you go over, they’ll slow down your internet to a fraction of its usual speed. This will leave you feeling like a famished Oliver Twist, begging for more gruel at the orphanage. Of course, you can buy more monthly data if you want to. But it’ll come at a hefty cost.

How much data do you need?

You’ll need enough data each month for you to do all the activities you usually do online without worrying about overage charges or network slowdowns. That could include anything from firing off tweets to downloading video games to shopping for vintage umbrellas (or whatever you like to shop for) on Amazon.

How can you avoid going over your data cap?

To avoid going over your data cap, you’ll have to budget out your average data usage for the month, and then stick to your budget.

One way to do that is to use an online data calculator—like this one from the internet provider Armstrong—which gives you a quick readout of how much data it takes to do particular tasks.

Doing regular stuff like browsing the web and checking email won’t take up much data at all. Streaming music or playing games online also goes easy on your monthly allowance.

Here’s how much you’ll use on everyday online stuff:

  • Sending/receiving 25 emails: .01 GB
  • Streaming an album: .06 GB
  • Gaming online for 5 hours: .60 GB
  • Streaming a 2-hour movie: 1 GB in SD, 4 GB in HD, 16 GB in 4K

You’ll use up a lot more data by watching movies or TV on a streaming service like Netflix. Streaming in 4K uses up four times as much data as HD, so consider limiting your 4K viewing to special occasions. (A Hobbit trilogy movie marathon, perhaps?)

Downloading files is where you really gotta watch out. The richer and more high-tech the file, the more gigs you’ll use—that means you’ll spend a lot more data downloading prestige video games than you would a handful of MP3s.

This is about how much data it takes to download files:

  • An MP3: 5 MB
  • An HD movie: 4 GB
  • The most recent update of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: 60 GB (Not the full game, mind you—just the update.)

If you have smart home devices around the house, that may end up taking the lion’s share of your data usage. Thankfully, as Viasat points out, you can cut corners by adjusting the resolution of your home security cameras and being choosy about how you use your smart home assistant.

This is the approximate data used each month by the following smart home devices:

  • A smart thermostat: 50 MB
  • A voice assistant: 22 GB
  • A motion-activated HD security camera: 150 GB

FAQ about internet data caps

Which providers have data caps?

The following providers offer data caps of differing amounts along with overage fees of varying degrees. All of them (except for HughesNet and Viasat) also have packages with unlimited data or offer it at an additional monthly charge.

  • AT&T
  • Xfinity
  • CenturyLink
  • Cox
  • Mediacom
  • Sparklight
  • Suddenlink
  • HughesNet
  • Viasat
  • Buckeye Broadband

Which providers don’t have data caps?

The following providers currently have no data caps on any of their plans:

  • RCN
  • EarthLink
  • Frontier
  • Windstream
  • Spectrum
  • Optimum
  • T-Mobile

What is bandwidth throttling?

Bandwidth throttling is the practice of lowering internet speed (often significantly) for certain users or certain types of traffic. This is typically done when an individual is using excessive amounts of data in a single monthly period. Due to customer backlash, it’s not a very common practice because it involves getting less service than you’re paying for.

Throttling is also sometimes used to manage network load during peak times. In these cases, providers may lower bandwidth of some (or all) users slightly to ensure that the network functions as expected for most customers. This is one reason why you may see a lower-than-advertised speed when using a speed test.

internet speed test button
How much internet speed you need button

Looking for a provider with no data caps? Enter your zip code to find the ones listed in this article in your area.

Author -

Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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