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Cable TV is Trying to Scare Cord Cutters With Data Caps – We Explain Why You Shouldn’t Worry

Depressed mature man holding paper and looking at it while sitting on the couch at homeOne of the biggest questions we get from new cord cutters is, ‘can you live with a data cap and still cut the cord? Or are cable TV companies trying to make it impossible to cut the cord by imposing data caps?’

This question has become more popular as many cable companies have been trying to scare customers canceling TV with fears of huge overages if they hit their data cap while streaming.

That raised a lot of questions with our readers about their ability to stream what they want with a 1TB data cap. So we are going to do our best to answer that question today.

Note: We are rounding the 1TB data cap down to 1,000 for easy math and to have a buffer for any potential overages.

Video On-Demand Data Usage

For an HD video, Netflix uses up to 3GB per hour of video. (That is not 3GB per show because most shows on Netflix are under an hour long.) Using 3GB an hour, you could watch just over 333 hours of video on Netflix in HD. That works out to be just over 11 hours of HD video on Netflix every day in a 30-day month.

Live TV Streaming Data Usage

Sling TV, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, and AT&T TV NOW do not publicly list their data usage per hour, but you can do the math from the quality usage.

  • An hour on highest quality (4.7 Mbps) would consume 2.1GB of data.
  • An hour on best quality (3.7 Mbps) would consume 1.66GB of data.
  • An hour on high quality (2.8 Mbps) would consume 1.26GB of data.
  • An hour on medium quality (1.2 Mbps) would consume 540 MB of data.
  • An hour on low quality (800 Kbps) would consume 360 MB of data.

We find most Sling TV subscribers use best quality, so they consume about 1.66GB of data every hour. That means you could watch just over 602 hours of Sling TV every month or about 20 hours of video every day in a 30-day month.

So should you be worried about your data cap?

The answer honestly is yes and no. The question of whether you should be worried about the data caps really depends on how many hours of video your house watches every month. For many people, 1 TB is more than enough, but others will need more. From running these numbers it looks like most families should be able to deal with these new data caps without issue though.

The truth is for many cord cutters paying attention to turning off the stream when you are not watching it will be more than enough to prevent you from going over your data cap.

What to do if you need more?

First, check out our guide on how to stay under your data cap. Next, shop around for other Internet services providers in your area. For example, if you have AT&T with a 1TB data cap, look at Toast.net. It resells AT&T Internet with US customer support and no data cap.

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