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Can Cord Cutters Live With 1TB Data Caps? We Take a Look…

Depressed mature man holding paper and looking at it while sitting on the couch at homeThis week Cox joined Comcast, AT&T, and others by adding a 1TB data cap to most of its plans (2TB for gigabyte subscribers).

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 45 minutes 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, DIRECTV NOW, and PlayStation Vue 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 question of whether you should be worried about the new Cox data cap really depends on how many hours of video your house watches every month. For many 1 TB is more than enough, but others will need more.

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.

Hopefully this post has helped answer some questions about cord cutting and data caps.

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40 Responses to Can Cord Cutters Live With 1TB Data Caps? We Take a Look…

  1. Avatar
    ExerciseBikeRider June 29, 2017 at 8:27 am #

    I got my email notice yesterday from Cox on these data cap limitations. Our home location still does not have access to their Gigablast service nor does COX offer purchasing additional data cap other than their 1TB that comes with their service. I called. So COX is NOT prepared to meet the needs of their customers after implementing their data restrictions.

    We need additional comparable Internet services in our area to COMPETE with these bozos since CUTTING the internet at this time is not currently an option. Not yet though…

  2. Avatar
    Tyson Treasure June 29, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    1TB geesh what a dream….try 300GB like my cable company, then you can complain.

  3. Avatar
    AstroMonster June 29, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    It’s not just streaming OTT services though, despite that being the only thing you mentioned, the cap comes into play with all of your data usage.

    Music..
    Downloads..
    Software updates..
    Sending MMS messages from your phone while on your home WiFi..
    Cloud backup services..
    Normal web browsing (which is starting to take up more and more all the time due to the amount of graphics and ads)

    All these things can easily consume major amounts of data..which leaves you less data for video streaming than what you listed

    • Avatar
      ChanceDM June 29, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

      It’s a fair point, but I would venture to say that all of that would maybe equal 1 or 2 hours of streaming TV viewing. (1 to 2 GB)

      • Avatar
        AstroMonster June 29, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

        Actually, my son had burned thru 22 GB of cellular data in a month many times on his phone, just snap chatting and music. And he used to spend more time at home on wifi than outside doing that stuff, so he alone probably used to consume 20 to 30 GB a month of my Comcast data.

        I download YouTube videos on a regular basis that hit 1 GB each.

        I download videos and programs that are 4 to 5 GB each .

        All the photos and videos I take with my phone get automatically uploaded from my phone to the cloud and then all of my cloud files get automatically downloaded to my computer at home, and then they get uploaded to my online back up. I have had days where my personal pics and videos hit 3 or 4 gb.

        So no, your estimate about 1 or 2 gb a month is way off..lol

    • Avatar
      FranchisePlayer June 29, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

      I’d add on to that list data usage for folks that work from home. Teleworking is becoming more common and staying connected for 12+ hrs/day also consumes a good chunk of data.

      • Avatar
        Mike July 15, 2017 at 12:43 am #

        Add on top of that a family. 11 hours of HD a day might seem like plenty but suddenly with parents and 2 kids you’ve got less that 4 hours per person not counting anything else like playing online games, downloading 40GB console games, streaming YouTube, patching windows etc. We average 1.5TB and have for the last few years.

  4. Avatar
    AstroMonster June 29, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    For 2017, my data usage as a whole each month has varied from 350 GB to 800 GB

  5. Avatar
    Ottis June 29, 2017 at 8:51 am #

    That’s all great now but when they start steaming 4K or 4K with HDR that will be 7GB – 10GB an hour. Is 1TB fine now? Yes. Will 1TB be fine in a year or two? Absolutely not and they know that the 1TB cap is a guaranteed way to see huge profit spikes in the near future.

    Add in other internet usage this cap will be gone in 1-2 weeks for many users.

    • Avatar
      S. Mays June 29, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

      Exactly. These caps were designed to placate us and regulators now (before Trump put that lobbyist in charge). If you are using only 1-2 streams at a time, and very little HD, 1TB is fine. Once you start getting into more streams OR 4K content, that 1TB is going to go fast. We are a 2 stream household and we regularly use about 600 per month. If you have kids and have 4 streams at once…well….

  6. Avatar
    mnsportsgeek June 29, 2017 at 9:12 am #

    I’ve got a Comcast 1 TB cap. I’ve never gone over 500gb with Hulu, Netflix, DirecTV Now, and related gaming downloads, etc. I’m usually between 250-300gb. It probably helps that my house is empty or sleeping 19/24 hours on weekdays.

  7. Avatar
    Robert Beier June 29, 2017 at 9:17 am #

    This is one of the reasons an antenna as part of your cord-cutting is a big deal. Doesn’t impact your data usage to use.

    • Avatar
      S. Mays June 29, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      I get approximately 1 channel with a fairly large antenna in my attic. If I got a 70+ mile antenna and installed it on my roof, I could probably pick up 3-4 more channels (and these are all just local channels like ABC.) Too many trees/hills/mountains.

  8. Avatar
    HiroRoshi June 29, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    1TB cap is passable for streaming only households for now, it’s a problem for those who stream and also do large file transfers. I do a lot of ISO and custom ROM downloads. Am glad to be on Google Fiber, which will likely always be unlimited. Hope Google doesn’t sell it off.

  9. Avatar
    David Nadeau June 29, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    I’ve done pretty with cutting the cord and 1TB. I didn’t cut the cord until Comcast upped their caps.

  10. Avatar
    Colton June 29, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    I pay Comcast $50 a month just to have my unlimited back. I cannot stand data caps and I frequently go over my 1TB.

    • Avatar
      S. Mays June 29, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

      That’s a shame. That’s just an arbitrary extortion fee they came up with.

      • Avatar
        Colton June 29, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

        I know data isn’t “free” but data has gotten so cheap and fast having anything other than unlimited is insane. It’s all about grabbing money

  11. Avatar
    FranchisePlayer June 29, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    What I don’t get with data caps is this is not like electricity or water where it makes sense to pay more for higher usage. What difference does it make for an ISP to give me 1Gb or 100 Tb? Are they going to run out of data? Will there be a strain on the grid so that the more I use, the Internet will break?

    Maybe someone more familiar with the architecture can explain this better. Other then just a money grab which I know is part of it, are there technical reasons for not allowing unlimited data use for everyone?

  12. Avatar
    James Dandy June 30, 2017 at 12:55 am #

    This is so much BS. According to the local news report about this last night Cox claims the caps won’t effect 98% of their customers. If it will only effect 2% of their customers why is it necessary? If the basis for the cap is that it cost them more for the customers who go over 1TB well then logically it costs them less for the 98% who don’t. Could it be they’re losing customers and need the revenue? Good. I’d go without internet access before I’d ever use Cox.

  13. Avatar
    Johnny14o June 30, 2017 at 6:55 am #

    We are a family of 2 adults and 1 10year old. We got Directv Now in November and “rolled” our AT&T U-Verse back to basic (with HD) so we could keep the unlimited data while monitoring how much data we went through/month vs the 1tb data cap without TV.

    We also use NetFlix and my daughter loves to watch stuff on “regular” YouTube…

    We were averaging around 349gb/month before Directv Now, as we got more comfortable with Directv Now (and glitches became fewer), that usage began to increase steadily. By February, our average usage was 1.06tb/month…. not good if I wanted to cut the AT&T TV.

    Ran across Toast.net… called them and asked a few questions. Signed up and got everything installed. It is actually an AT&T tech that does the install (it’s AT&T’s line), they actually gave me a better Gateway than what I was getting from AT&T U-Verse too. Cancelled AT&T TV the same day and rerurned their equipment. So now I have the same internet I did before (speed&quality) with no data cap to be concerned about and a few bucks cheaper too.

  14. Avatar
    Carl Maynor June 30, 2017 at 7:58 am #

    I understand the concerns of people. With pretty much everyone being online these days, the demands to keep everyone connected have to be pretty tremendous. To just let everyone use whatever they feel like would undoubtedly put even more of a strain on the infrastructure. Which would require R&D and upgrading to accommodate the load. That would inevitably lead to higher bills which people would complain about. Using the numbers provided above, 20 hours a day (600 +gb) of streaming is astronomical in reality. Who has that much free time to spend in that capacity? Why spend time in that capacity anyway? People would more likely be happier and healthier if they disconnected and got back to nature, visited neighbors, grew a garden (vegetable or flower).

    • Avatar
      FranchisePlayer June 30, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

      Could you elaborate on the strains that are caused to the infrastructure with higher data loads. Is more equipment needed or something else?

      As Internet use becomes more like water and electricity, the availability of it is reaching almost the same level of importance (maybe already has for some people). With the increase in teleworking, streaming, and homes with 3-4 phones, tablets and multiple computers along with smart devices that are constantly connected, it seems like many could use well over 1 TB/month.

      I’m genuinely curious about the technical limitations that prevent unlimited use.

      • Avatar
        StefanoR99 September 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

        There’s no additional strain, it’s all BS. Most CDNs are sitting directly on their networks so the amounts people consume cost no extra for them for you to stream 1 hour or 720 hours a month…

  15. Avatar
    Paul June 30, 2017 at 8:15 am #

    Cut the cord in mid-May. I’ve had Comcast and satellite prior to that for the last 5yrs. I’ve never received a notice for data usage, til just a few days ago. We have 1TB, we have been using directv now and Hulu/Netflix, probably averaging 8hrs a day, and we supposedly went over our 1TB already. We have kids that are always online, gaming, YouTube, but they don’t watch TV. So Idk where these numbers are coming from, 20+hrs a day and you wouldn’t go over. We are using half that and already have. No 4k either.

  16. Avatar
    Roger Nixon June 30, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    i just checked my Cox data usage for June and it was 360 gb. There are two of us and we are on our computers during working hours. In the evenings we usually stream 2 hours of HD video (Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go) and maybe 3 hours per Saturday and Sunday. We don’t stream 4k video and we watch a few shows on Directv Now. I’ll watch college football this fall but it appears the 1 tb cap will be fine for the foreseeable future.

  17. Avatar
    Mike Thaler June 30, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    We had Comcast til 3 years ago. Then Webpass (now Google) came in to the condo with and serviced the bldg with a hitech FAST s internet. Each unit gets 100Mbps up/down for $25/mo. (incl. in HOA dues)
    Have no way of knowing usage.
    Just starting process to cut the cord. Discovered most streaming services don’t have all the channels. Google/youtube has all the locals, but NOT CNN. (We are trying their 30 day free trial.) I guess we would never have a cap because of the type of internet we have. (we r in SF area.)

    • Avatar
      Duder12 July 5, 2017 at 8:39 pm #

      Use CNN Go app for headlines on your Android TV, Roku, Apple TV , fire TV whatever.

  18. Avatar
    Jesse P July 3, 2017 at 9:36 am #

    I was very worried about this when they announced it as my home has the 300mbit download speed with Cox. We use DirecTVNow as our primary TV and have it on most of the time we are watching TV. My wife also works from home logged in via Citrix. There’s also the occasional Netflix or other OTT app. We haven’t had any problem and the closest we came was 800gb in a single month. The biggest culprit of data in my house is BY FAR the couple of XBox Ones the kids use and their 50gb game downloads and 30gb patches. Snapchat on the phones uses a TON of data too, like gigs a day.

  19. Avatar
    aoliver515 July 3, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    I don’t want data caps! I know that I would go over every month !

  20. Avatar
    TARHEELBRAND July 14, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    Before you cut the cord shop around for internet providers! I’m sorry to say this but if you have data cap it would be stupid to cut the cord! Glad that Charter Spectrum doesn’t have one yet!

    • Avatar
      Kravimir July 14, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

      Not all cord cutting households use over 1TB each month. It depends on each family’s viewing habits and whether they’re streaming everything from the Internet or not. Some cord cutters use a Tivo, Tablo OTA DVR, or HDHomeRun to watch OTA TV without having to impact their datacap. Also some cord cutters get media servers of some flavor or other to keep a local collection of videos, so they don’t have to use their bandwidth each time they “watch TV”.

      Other factors include video chats and playing certain games over the Web. Those who do less or even none of those have more bandwidth for VOD content.

    • Avatar
      TV Barrington July 15, 2017 at 7:23 am #

      I really wish that I could shop around for various internet providers. Comcast is basically a monopoly, and I don’t live in the rare areas around my state that has FIOS, or some other provider. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. My cable bill is high, so I’m cutting the cord, but cutting the cord has it’s drawbacks and penalties when dealing with Comcast and paying for only internet. Luckily, a majority of my Tivo Roamio OTA recordings will come from the big 5 OTA channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and CW). However, there are a few shows that I like to binge watch, but may need to spread out over a longer period.

  21. Avatar
    Kal August 14, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

    I work at home, and I stream *something* constantly. With music streaming (Spotify, Amazon, or SiriusXM via Amazon Echo), other devices, and occasional video streaming, Verizon says I’m at about 175GB/month. I recently started using DirecTV Now to replace cable, which is probably on somewhere in my house about 10 hours a day. At most that would be about 900GB, so I’d be just over 1TB. Not too bad — I don’t think Verizon starts to squawk about FIOS until you hit 10TB or something. (Also, a tip: I got a USB hub that I plug into my TV for Roku Sticks and Chromecast. At night, I set a sleep timer, so when the TV shuts off, it turns the streaming devices off, too.)

    • Avatar
      Kravimir August 14, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

      Good tip, but can’t that only power 1 streaming media player at a time? Also it’s worth mentioning that only stick-shaped devices, Roku Express models, and some other older Roku models (with a 3rd-party adapter) can run on USB power. And some TVs may not supply enough power via USB for some of those.

      • Avatar
        Kal August 14, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

        Four of my TVs are able to power both the Roku Stick (3600) and the Chromecast at the same time, using a Sabrent 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub. I plug the hub into the USB port and the two devices into the hub, and I’m all set.

        With the fifth TV, I got a message on the Roku that it wasn’t getting enough power, so I unplugged the Chromecast and plugged in a powered OTA antenna instead. The Roku and the antenna seem to do fine sharing a port on that set.

  22. Avatar
    StefanoR99 September 6, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    The 1TB data cap is an artificial limit put in place to claw back lost revenue from cable TV subscribers cancelling their subscription and watching TV from the internet. As soon as 4k becomes mainstream EVERYONE is going to be hitting that cap and the cable companies are in for a massive windfall.

    The only providers in our area – comcast and t&t have both put in arbitrary 1TB limits so much for free market competition.

    The 1TB limit has been put in place because they know it’s going to catch a lot of people out. It costs them no more to move 10TB than it does 1TB especially since most CDNs will have servers sitting directly on their networks.

    We need an FCC campaign on this.

  23. Avatar
    Globespy September 19, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

    We’re looking at going internet only with Comcast, likely sling TV.
    The thing I didn’t see mentioned in this article about how much data is used for sling TV plan that allows 3 streams, watch one channel and record 2 others.
    Then you would have to use more data to stream those recordings your just used data to record, since they’re cloud stored!!
    Wouldn’t this equate to triple/quadruple data usage? If so then that 1TB cap would be likely hit by even an average person who likes to record a show while watching another.
    I hope Netflix and Amazon win their current court case against Comcast for what’s essentially anticompetitive behavior. Comcast knows that this data cap directly impacts business like Netflix and Amazon and limits customer options.
    I’ve cut phone and reduce my equipment rental, so I’m running about $160 per month and I’m wondering if it’s worth the risk going internet only if I find that I’m having to pay Comcast that extra $50 a month to get back my unlimited data plan.
    There’s just no winning for people, the big companies always win.

  24. Avatar
    JaHunt December 24, 2017 at 12:40 am #

    In las vegas the data cap shows 1
    Tb for all speeds. So someone paying $30 or $40 for 10 megabit connection has same cap as someone paying $119 for gigabit connection. Common sense would say scale it up with speed so that cap for gigabit customers 2 or 3 tb while slower ones get less. The result for ne is ill probably downgrade to slower speed and just wait till they get pricing in order. 4k tvs now are so cheap and everyone rolling out 4k and hdr content but companies like cox not keeping up.

  25. Avatar
    PaulAndrewAnderson January 15, 2018 at 3:24 pm #

    I agree with many of these comments; esp. about an antenna. There is no need streaming what is broadcast for free in 1080P+ already. In fact I link this very page at my Blogger site (Old Dog New Tech Tricks) b/c it is so relevant. I’m overwhelmed with media content, and far more than could even be watched if that’s all I did (and it is not)! I get everything; media and communications related, for $10 monthly; the options (themselves) are overwhelming. But then, my situation differs from others, and so, it’s all about what you want, versus what you’re willing to pay for; the time versus money issue. Click my Avatar and then the link provided for more.