The "Deal" With Data Caps

As high-speed Internet connections and data-heavy applications become more common, more Internet service providers are implementing data caps or overage fees in order to restrict or limit their customers' usage. It's important for Internet users to understand how data caps can affect their own services, as well as the Internet overall.

What kinds of caps are common?

This depends on the type of service. Most broadband or wired connections, if capped, have higher limits than mobile plans. Comcast is currently testing a new 300 GB cap, while Mediacom’s is 150 GB. However, wireless providers like Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint all have starting caps lower than 5 GB on their basic plans.

What happens when customers hit the cap?

Caps vary widely by provider. Most companies charge an overage fee. Mediacom charges a $10 overage fee for every 50 GB over the cap, as does Comcast. Verizon's charge is a more severe $15 per 1 GB. Other companies, like T-Mobile, don’t charge for going over the limit, but instead severely reduce speed once the cap is reached (in their case, at only 2 GB).

Does anyone ever hit the cap?

For now, only a small percentage of people are affected. As high-speed Internet usage and applications become more common, though, more people are using services like Netflix and online gaming, which can very rapidly race through data. For instance, an average Netflix user streams between 40 GB – 80 GB of video a month (that’s Netflix streaming only, by the way – not including other video services or online activities). As these types of services become more common, even the "average" consumer may have to watch their data limits.

How could this affect the Internet itself?

Suppose we invent a vehicle that can move at the speed of light. Near instantaneous travel would revolutionize the world, right? Not if you’re only allowed to go, say, 100 miles a month without an "excess travel fee."

Data caps act as an arbitrary restriction on technological growth, in the same way a distance limit would cripple even the fastest car. Customers would be forced to count gigabytes in an attempt to avoid overage fees, rather than just exploring the web naturally and helping new startups to grow. The next "Skype" or "Hulu" would be dead in the water if no one were willing to risk precious GB testing it out.

Does Socket have data caps?

No. We continue to offer our high-speed Internet services without usage caps, limitations or restrictions. It’s your Internet. You paid for it. Use it!

Learn more about Socket's views on data caps.