Which Internet Service Providers Have Data Caps?
Most internet service providers have data caps, putting a limit on how much internet you can consume on your home Wi-Fi every month. Using too much data means you could get extra charges or have your speeds slowed down.
Internet providers don’t always make clear what exactly your data cap is or what will happen if you exceed your cap. So we gathered info on all of the caps from major internet providers and listed it all right here. Read on to see what your provider’s data limit is. You can also find providers that offer unlimited data plans.
Jump to: Which providers have data caps? | AT&T | RCN | Xfinity | Frontier | Google Fiber | CenturyLink | Windstream | Spectrum | Cox | Optimum | Suddenlink | Mediacom | Verizon 5G Home Internet | T-Mobile Home Internet | EarthLink | Starry Internet | HughesNet | Viasat | What is a data cap? | How much data do you need? | FAQ
Which internet service providers (ISPs) have data caps?
|Provider||Type of service||Data cap||Monthly data cap||Overage fees|
|AT&T||Fiber, DSL, fixed wireless||Yes||350 GB–Unlimited||$10/50 GB|
|Xfinity||Cable||Yes||1.2 TB||$10/50 GB|
|Cox Communications||Cable||Yes||1.25 TB||$10/50 GB|
|Suddenlink Communications||Cable||Yes||250 GB–Unlimited||$15/50 GB|
|Mediacom||Cable||Yes||200 GB–6 TB||$10/50 GB|
|Verizon 5G Home Internet||5G||No||Unlimited||None|
|T-Mobile Home Internet||5G, 4G||No||Unlimited||None|
|EarthLink||Fiber and DSL||No||Unlimited||None|
|Starry Internet||Fixed wireless||No||Unlimited||None|
|Buckeye Broadband||Cable||Yes||10 GB–Unlimited||$10/50 GB.|
|HughesNet||Satellite||Yes||10 GB–50 GB (followed by internet slowdown)||None|
|Viasat||Satellite||Yes||40 GB–150 GB (followed by internet slowdown)||None|
Data as of 4/15/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
While many internet providers impose data caps, most fiber internet plans give you unlimited data. You can also usually get unlimited data (or an extremely high data cap of 1 TB or more) if you sign up for a gigabit internet plan, which gives you speeds around 1,000 Mbps.
You also may want to look toward novel types of internet for unlimited data—namely Verizon 5G Home Internet and T-Mobile’s Home Internet plans. Both of these relatively new, wireless services give you unlimited data.
How much data do you need for working or studying from home?
If you’re working or studying from home, you’ll need enough data to attend Zoom meetings, work over Google Docs, collaborate with classmates or coworkers, and do everything else you usually do online during the month.
The COVID-19 pandemic has vastly increased the demand for internet data since millions of Americans have been spending more time online while stuck at home—and a handful of internet providers have raised their data caps as a result.
Most internet providers will give you about 1 TB a month of data, which is plenty for a relatively small household of one to four people. You should seek out a higher data allowance, though, if you live with more people or have more demanding data needs.
Reasons for needing unlimited data (or more than 1 TB of data per month):
- You live with five or more people
- You regularly stream video in 4K
- You have multiple people in your household that regularly attend Zoom meetings
- You regularly host livestreams
You can find more information about managing your data budget farther down on this page.
Does AT&T have data caps?
AT&T has no data caps for its fiber internet plans, so you get unlimited data if you have the Internet 100, Internet 300, or Internet 1000 plan.
AT&T plans that are below 100 Mbps give you a 1 TB data cap. You’ll only get charged for data overages after the third time you exceed your cap. After that it costs $10 for every additional 50 GB of data you use.
AT&T’s fixed-wireless internet plan—mostly used by rural internet customers in remote areas—comes with a 350 GB data cap. Again, it costs $10 for every 50 GB you go over.
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.
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 $30.00 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 30 clams might be worth it.
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.
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.
Does Spectrum have data caps?
Spectrum does not enforce any data caps. Unlimited data for all!
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 for each 50 GB of extra data you use.
If you think you’ll regularly use more than the 1.25 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.
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.
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.
The cheapest package gives you just 200 MB per month, but you get a ton more data on faster plans. Mediacom’s gigabit plan gives you an eye-popping 6,000 GB per month, which will basically amount to unlimited data for most users.
Mediacom charges $10 per 50 GB of data over the cap. While we at HighSpeedInternet.com prefer no caps, this is one we could live with.
Does Verizon 5G Home Internet have data caps?
No, Verizon 5G Home Internet gives you unlimited data each month. You won’t need to worry about overage charges and you can use all the data you like.
Does T-Mobile Home Internet have data caps?
Nope. Like Verizon’s 5G Home Internet, T-Mobile’s LTE– and 5G–based residential internet package comes with unlimited data. So feel free to stream, download, or game to your heart’s content.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Does net neutrality stop data caps?
Net neutrality currently doesn’t stop data caps, but it discourages internet providers from putting caps on certain online activities and not on others. For example, California passed a net neutrality law in 2018 that bars internet and wireless providers from putting zero caps on their properties—like AT&T’s HBO Max—while imposing caps on rival services in the same category.
The idea behind this legislation is to prevent internet providers from abusing their market power to promote their own brands while directly or indirectly punishing customers for using other similar internet platforms.
AT&T has pushed back against California’s law, but some experts on net neutrality believe federal legislation under the Biden administration could possibly do away with data caps entirely.
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.
Which providers don’t have data caps?
The following providers currently have no data caps on any of their plans:
- T-Mobile Home Internet
- Verizon 5G Home Internet
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.
- Marguerite Reardon, CNET, “Net Neutrality Fight Is About to Come Roaring Back,” December 3, 2020. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Author - Peter Holslin
Peter Holslin has more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.