Are You Spoiled by Unlimited Internet (for Now)?

You are spoiled. I am spoiled. We all are spoiled if we have access to unlimited Internet at home. Just as our cell phone plans transformed from unlimited data to plans with monthly data caps, our Internet service at home may someday have limits, if it doesn’t already.

Imagine binge-watching House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Orphan Black, getting near the end of the series, only to get a message from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that you’ve used up your monthly allotment of bandwidth. Even worse, you miss the message and receive a bill with expensive charges for the overage data use. Ouch!

Does your ISP have a bandwidth cap? Do you enjoy unlimited Internet? Does your Internet speed slow down if you use too much data within the month? Customers in countries such as Canada, Iceland and Australia already have data caps. See, ZDNet Data caps are the least of America’s internet problems

 Check out the chart from GigaOm to see if your ISP has a data cap: Want to know if your ISP is capping data? Check our updated chart.

Comcast has said that it will imposed data caps for all of its customers within five years. The good news is that the data caps Comcast is talking about range from 300-500GB. (See, Ars Technica Comcast plans data caps for all customers in 5 years, could be 500GB.) The company already has started rolling out data caps in certain areas earlier this year, with a limit of 300GB, plus $10 for each additional 50GB.

While 300GB seems like a lot of data, technology advances may someday make that amount of data seem paltry. If you’ve cut the cable and depend on streaming video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, you could blow through your monthly allotment quickly. With unlimited data plans you don’t have to worry about whether your plan will keep up with the demands of video streaming or advanced technologies such as 4D video.

According to Netflix, streaming videos uses:

  • 0.7 GB per hour for SD
  • 3 GB per hour for HD,
  • 4.7 GB per hour for 3D,
  • 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD 4K

How Much Data Do You Use?

While we may have electric and water meters at our homes, we probably don’t have a data meter showing us how much data we use each month. As we shop online, watch videos, stream music, share photos, surf social media, and read The Wonder of Tech, we generally don’t have a clue about how much data we’re using.

And we probably don’t care. But if ISP’s start imposing data caps on our home Internet service we may care very much.

As our use of the Internet continues to grow, ISP’s are challenged to keep up with demand. Allowing customers unlimited access to bandwidth may be impractical in the future

This infographic shows how much bandwidth is used on the Internet worldwide and shows predictions on how usage will grow in the future. The statistics might surprise you:

What’s Using All the Bandwidth? - Via Who Is Hosting This: The Blog


Love Your Grandfather

If ISP’s start imposing data caps on their customers, they may offer grandfathered plans for unlimited usage, as cell phone carriers do. Allowing customers who currently have unlimited plans to keep them may help ISP’s to retain customers. But if the customers who leave are the ones who use the most data, ISP’s may not be sad to see them go.

I currently have grandfathered unlimited data plans for my cell phone and iPad with AT&T. The comfort of not having to worry about data overages is worth it to me to maintain my grandfathered plan, even though there might be better deals for me based on my actual data usage.

Special Offers

If some ISP’s impose data caps, then competitors may respond with special offers for unlimited data. My daughters have unlimited data plans for their cell phones with Virgin Mobile on its Beyond Talk plan for $30/month. The speed may be slower, but the satisfaction of knowing there will be no overage charges may make up for a slower speed.

See, Do You Feel the Need for Speed?

But special offers from competitors assumes that competition exists for ISP’s. Many areas, especially remote ones, have only one ISP available.

Is It Fairer to Pay for What You Use?

Some people might prefer a tiered Internet data plan with lower prices for less use. Similar to Ting’s pricing, ISP’s could sell Internet service in bundles so you only pay for what you use.

 See, Ten Reasons Why Ting May Be Your Next Cell Phone Provider.

You may save money by purchasing an Internet plan with a lower data cap if you don’t use a lot of bandwidth. But you would may want a way to monitor your usage to keep track of how much of your allotment you’ve used, similar to Ting’s dashboard showing you your monthly usage.


What do you think of data caps on Internet usage? Would you prefer to stick with an unlimited usage plan or do you want a pay-for-what-you-use pricing plan? Vote in The Wonder of Tech poll and let us know your thoughts:

Your Thoughts

Do you have any idea of how much data you use per month? What statistics from the infographic surprised you? Do you currently have unlimited Internet usage? Would you miss unlimited Internet if your ISP added a data cap? Do you wish you still had an unlimited data plan on your cell phone? Let us know in the Comments section below!


Fruity Pebbles

If you’ve been holding out on getting a Pebble watch until they came in the colors of Fruity Pebbles, then your time has arrived! Pebble announced yesterday that it will be offering its smartwatch in limited edition colors of Fresh Green, Hot Pink and Sky Blue.

This video shows off the new colored watches:

If you want to check out other possible colors that may be in Pebble’s future, check out its #ColorMyPebble Pinterest board.

If you want to get one of these colorful smartwatches, you’ll have to head to Pebble’s website and part with $150.

 See my full review of the Pebble watch: Pebble Watch – A Smartwatch with Potential


* Breaking Bad image courtesy of darkness at alphacoders (edited)

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  1. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    That was an interesting infographic and poll :)

    However, much of the data went over my head or perhaps we don’t have such stats our end I would say. Yes, we do use the unlimited pack that comes with the phone (landline we use at home) – so by taking a monthly pack everyone at home is able to get unlimited access to through the WiFi to their mobiles, laptops and the computer.

    Yes, we can download and see videos, though they might not download very fast, but the speed is medium. Of course, you pay more and you can do it all much faster, but it depends on how much you want to download or watch videos too. Presently, we are content with the way things are, and when we have to travel or move out of station, we can get an additional pack put for our mobiles, so it works well.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead :)
    Harleena Singh recently published this awesome post..11 Keys to Success From The Quotes of Successful PeopleMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Harleena, Great point. Often we do try to save our use of data on our phones by connecting to Wi-Fi at home. But if our home use is capped then we may not be doing ourselves any favors by connecting to Wi-Fi there.

      You’re right, when we have unlimited Internet we don’t have to worry about how much data we’re using.

      I was just with someone this weekend who had a new iPhone that was a week old on a new plan. The iPhone showed she had only used about 400MB of data, but she received warnings from her carrier that she had used 90% of her data for the month. She was going to have to call the carrier to find out what was going on with her usage. With unlimited plans that just wouldn’t be a concern.

      I’m glad you don’t have to worry about data caps with your Internet, Harleena!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..How to Personalize Your Gmail with Themes!My Profile

  2. says

    Hey Carolyn,

    Why am I not surprised!

    Right now I use Comcast only because for what I get it’s the best price and all the other competitors in my area are way more. But, I don’t stream videos and I don’t watch NetFlex either. My cable TV provider is also Comcast and because it’s through out townhome association I’m paying for the service whether I have it to not which is the only reason I’m not switching.

    I’m on my brother’s cell plan, it’s a family one and I know he has unlimited data but that’s because the kids use it so much not us. I do use WiFi at home though because I’m letting my Mom use my internet since she only checks her email maybe twice a day. No need in making her pay extra for such little usage.

    I would hate to see this happen because I’m online all day every day. I have no clue what I use but I can imagine it’s quite a bit.

    Adrienne recently published this awesome post..Thankful Thursday: Blogging, YouTube, Social Media, GoogleMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Adrienne, That’s great you’re on an unlimited cell phone data plan. There is certainly a peace of mind not worrying about how much data you’re using.

      I hope Comcast doesn’t start data caps in your area any time soon. But even if it does, you may be fine because you don’t stream a lot of video, Adrienne. It sounds as if your mother doesn’t use a lot either so you probably wouldn’t use up all of your monthly data allotment.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..French Girls – Let an Artist Turn Your Selfie into a Portrait (or a Joke)!My Profile

  3. Victoria says

    Very interesting research! I’m surely well spoiled with unlimited internet, since I’ve been using it for more than 8 years now and can’t imagine myself without it. It’s even hardd to remember the times when you thought about file size or saving something for later. But the interesting thing is that since the internet became unlimited I have no idea of how much data I actually use daily or weekly or even monthly.

  4. Jhinny says

    Great infogrpahics, the plan i currently have with comcast xfinity includes unlimited access at home

  5. says

    It’s an interesting idea of adding data caps now, especially since we’re used to no limits. I remember when we first got internet at home, and the price to use it was very high. I was at the university all day, because it was free to use the Internet there.

    It would be really difficult with data caps now. I don’t know how much data I’m using, but I bet it’s a lot and especially at home. I’ve got three kids, and they’re all using the Internet fairly often, and so does my wife.


    • says

      Hi Jens, Yes, when I first got dial-up Internet at home it was very slow and limited by the time you could spend online. Not a good combination! Yes, using Internet at work used to be much more convenient because it was faster and not metered. Perhaps we will be returning to those days at some point but we better not be streaming movies at work!

      Great point about monitoring your family’s use. No one wants a shocking bill because their kids were watching videos over the monthly data allotment!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Breaking Tech News: Gmail Unsubscribe, Russian Hackers, and More!My Profile

  6. Churchill Madyavanhu says

    No data cap on my home network yet. But let me tell you that I would harm somebody, if they cut my internet while I was halfway through the latest WonderOfTech blog post. :-) I don’t watch movies or videos, but I do a lot of reading. My ISP is probably happy to have a customer like me.

    However, the data cap on my mobile phone annoys me a lot towards the end of each month. Fortunately, I spend most of my time in places where I have access to Wi-Fi networks.
    Churchill Madyavanhu recently published this awesome post..10 tips and 15 tools for freelancers to stay organisedMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Churchill, Lol, thank you very much for being such a loyal Wonder of Tech reader! Yes, I can think of nothing worse than to be cut off from the Internet as you’re trying to read a Wonder of Tech article. The horror! :-O

      Wow, if you still run low on data toward the end of the month even though you are mostly on Wi-Fi then you know the stress of having a limited data plan. I hope your home Internet remains unlimited as long as possible Churchill!
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    • says

      Hi Pankaj, Yes, we rarely give thought to whether we’re using too much data when we surf the Net. We may be using the Internet for research, entertainment, social media, etc. Imagine if you head to Facebook, see a video from a friend and have to think twice before watching it because you don’t know how much data you have left for the month.

      Limited data plans at home would certainly change our thinking of how we use the Internet.
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  7. Ankit Jiaswal says

    Hii Carolyn

    Because of Unlimited data plans , we could not even see day and night , spending all time on internet . Download an interesting videos , Play online Games and other stuff , as these are the plans are made for the uninterrupted internet service . I think once a while we should have put the measure on service so we can get the actual time we spending on internet .

    • says

      Hi Ankit, Excellent point. When Internet service first came to homes it was metered by time, not the amount of data used. People understood that they could only spend so much time surfing the Web.

      But when Internet usage is measured by data, people can’t know for sure how much they’re using. Any limited data plan should be accompanied by real-time metering so people can monitor their usage.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Breaking Tech News: Gmail Unsubscribe, Russian Hackers, and More!My Profile

  8. says

    I am with the majority on the POLL.
    I don’t like data caps but if I have to get rid of them then I need to pay more. So, that is to it. It all depends on this one line, the more you spend the better thing you get.
    If a person hates data caps then he or she needs to spend more money.
    Bigger package = bigger price.
    BTW have you watched “Sherlock”?
    Asking it because you didn’t talked about it.
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    • says

      Hi Anurag, Yes, the poll results are fascinating. I was surprised, thinking that the opinions would be more mixed.

      Do you have data caps now on your home Internet? Many people in the US don’t have them yet so we don’t have to get rid of them. What would be bad is if we get data caps but don’t get a reduction in price. But that’s what’s happening to some.

      I haven’t watched Sherlock. Are you a fan of the show? I know a lot of people are fans of Sherlock!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Breaking Tech News: Gmail Unsubscribe, Russian Hackers, and More!My Profile

  9. Darragh McCurragh says

    My thoughts: net neutrality must become a myth if people try to consume ever more bandwidth at the very moment they decide e.g. to watch a movie. Only ten years ago, at least twenty years ago, people would have to walk (!) up to a video library, lend (!) (or buy) a video (provided it was in stock), walk (!) home, put it into the VCR etc., then watch it, bring it back etc. If people would care to download whatever they don’t need on the spur of the moment and use a download application that does not use all the bandwidth indiscriminately things like caps could be avoided. But with net neutrality being the new battle cry the Internet in the end will either be slower or more expensive for everyone or investments will be stifled because no provider will lay down cable for people who won’t pay.

  10. Margo says

    Data caps are just another way for the bloated ISPs to try and milk the cash cow further. They used to charge customers for not pushing enough data through their circuits (Worldcom), and now they want to charge for using too much. I worked in telecom and data centers for over a decade so I’m very familiar with both sides of the fence. Yes, data usage is growing at a substantial rate, and the ISPs pushed that since it allowed them to keep selling larger and larger circuits to their customers. Time Warner Cable is still following this methodology b/c it works from a profit generating POV. Since 2000 the data centers have been under pressure to build more space and to do it faster. Growth almost always exceeded predictions. The limitation was power, however, not data usage. The ISPs had plenty of room on the equipment and circuits they had running into those facilities.

    Most telecoms are sitting on multiple backbones from the days of merger fever. They are very inefficient in using them, and are infamous for poor billing systems. Putting data caps in will be costly and is likely to make consumers suffer. A much better use of their times and money would be streamlining the backbones to improve efficiency so they are structured for a future of greater data useage. There is no doubt the future includes increasing data useage. Think of it like plumbing. If you buy an old house which has had additions, then been subdivided into apartments, then converted back to one house, you probably have three kitchens, multiple bathrooms, and the plumbing looks like jigsaw puzzle. That’s what each ISP that supports the Internet looks like right now. Instead of fixing the plumbing, they want to put in fixtures which restrict water flow. It’s a temporary solution which fails to address long term needs. In the meantime, the executives will continue to take home huge salaries and bonuses while cutting benefits and workers. The layoffs aren’t as well publicized as they once were, but they still happen. Verizon Business does it ever year just before the holidays. Merry Christmas.

    • says

      Hi Margo, You’re right, data usage will only increase. The infographic does a great job of showing how massive the increase has been and will continue to be!

      If data caps are instituted, perhaps there will be a company that offers competition with unlimited data plans. Competition would be a very good thing to make sure the customers get what they want. From the results of the poll in this article, customers seem to want unlimited data plans unanimously, even if they would save money with a capped plan.
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  11. Christopher Soule says

    I spend most of my online time reading articles or doing research for my blog so I can’t say that Internet data caps could affect me directly but I find this a bit uneasy. I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to experience it until now but I think these companies are just milking us for some extra bucks.