Internet companies are implementing data caps as more customers go online during pandemic

People are used to having to pay more based on how much cellphone data they use. But consumers may soon have to pay more based on how much data they use on their home internet.
Sean Glenn and his family have always streamed a lot of videos while at home. But the family’s online activity increased recently when the kids began remote learning and Glenn started working from home. And come April, this may cost him more.
“It just feels like they’re boxing me into something that I don’t want,” Glenn says.
Glenn’s internet provider Comcast recently imposed a data cap on its Xfinity home internet service. Customers who go above 1.2 terabytes of data per month will face overage charges of up to $100 unless they pay $30 a month for unlimited data.
“I took a look at my usage for the past year and realized that if this were in place this year, I would have paid, for about four months, I would have paid more money each month,” he says.
Comcast insists that 95% of its customers won’t be impacted by the cap.
A spokesperson tells News 12, “1.2 terabytes is a massive amount of data that enables consumers to video conference for 3,500 hours, watch 1,200 hours of distance learning videos, (or) stream 500 hours of high-definition video content a month.”
This sounds like a lot, but what would those numbers mean for a family with a parent working from home and three children going to school remotely? News 12 did the math.
If the parents stream about two hours of video a day – four on weekends – and each child does the same, the family is already over 60% of its monthly data limit. If the kids spend 15 hours a week in virtual classrooms, they are over 90% of the data.
Throw in four hours a day of zoom calls for parents, and the family is now over 95% of this supposedly massive allowance. Anything else like video games or wireless security cameras – and they could go over.
“Like, I also own an Xbox, which primarily, that’s now gone cloud. If I download four games, I’ve already hit my limit for the month. That’s not really fair,” says Glenn.
Data caps are a growing trend among internet providers nationwide. New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone recently wrote letters to the major ISPs asking if they had caps in place before the pandemic or imposed them since.
“People are relying on the internet for their kids to go to school. They’re using telemedicine for their doctors more frequently,” Pallone says. “So, I just think that these data caps are really, you know, they’re going to have a major impact.”
News 12’s parent company Altice provides internet service in this area under the Optimum brand. Optimum is currently one of the internet service providers that does not have data caps. But caps are becoming more common throughout the industry.