Concern Over Data Caps Grows as Coronavirus Fears Keep People at Home




Couple on laptop

As responses and precautions to the ongoing Coronavirus threat evolve, many are staying indoors — working from home during the day and opting to spend evenings in. The increase in video conferencing and streaming video is putting more demand on home internet usage, potentially raising the risk of hitting and exceeding monthly data usage caps. With the stay-at-home trend looking to continue for some time, some industry experts suggest now would be a good time for broadband providers to update their policies on data caps and overage fees.

Motherboard reached out to a number of US broadband providers to see if plans were underway to adjust usage cap adjustments in the wake of Coronavirus precautions. A Comcast rep said the company is monitoring the situation, but wouldn’t commit to any specific changes or waivers. Meanwhile, Mediacom said it’s giving customers in all its service tiers an additional 50GB through the end of March. The company typically offers blocks of 50GB for $10, for use when customers exceed their standard monthly usage allowances of 400GB to 6TB, depending on service plan. (Since this post was written, AT&T has moved to lift usage caps.)

In all, Broadband Now lists over 180 internet providers across to country implementing some form of monthly data caps, ranging from as little as 2GB to 6TB depending on region, provider, and connection type.

Of course, a broadband data usage cap assumes broadband service is available to begin with. And the increasing demand to work from home is likely to put internet connections in rural areas under even more stress.

On a personal level, I’ve been working from home for the past few years and we’ve averaged about 688GB of data per month. Much of that is due to streaming video for our daughter in the daytime, video conferencing for meetings, and watching Netflix at night in 1080p. If we had a larger family, opted for the 4K Netflix plan, or downloaded just a couple AAA video games (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can reach 100GB in its latest iteration), we’d likely run the risk of hitting our 1TB limit from Comcast.

Recent Data Usage in My Home

Total Data Usage (in GB) Percentage of Monthly Cap (1024GB)
September 604 58.98%
October 696 67.97%
November 691 67.48%
December 745 72.75%
January 672 65.63%
February 720 70.31%

(That’s a lot of Parks and Rec, Office, Zoom meetings, and Super Simple Songs.)

Cord Cutters News will definitely keep a close watch on how broadband providers respond to this developing situation, including any cap raises, waivers, or incentives they might offer.

In the meantime, check out this post for tips on staying under your data limit.

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