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The Life of a Cord Cutter

Follow our CEO, Kevin Fisher, as he takes you along his journey to break free from pay TV and overpriced Internet.

Demystifying Data Caps

Posted February 24, 2016 by Kevin Fisher

Sail Internet’s residential internet service does not have a data cap.

Until we cut the cord on our expensive pay TV package, I basically ignored the data cap. And many internet providers do not enforce data caps for customers that also subscribe to a TV package. But now I have become concerned that we might exceed this cap and trigger warning letters and extra fees.

The data itself costs my internet provider close to nothing. Of course my internet provider has costs, but total data usage is not really one of them. Data caps are purely a way for the big internet providers to maintain their overall profit margins when more and more of their customers are becoming cord-cutters and avoiding costly Pay TV bundles.

So how can I turn hours of viewing into gigabytes of data usage? It turns out that bandwidth usage varies significantly based on the streaming service, the video quality of the stream, and the specific streamed content. For example, video content with high levels of action would typically use more bandwidth. Netflix is the most commonly used streaming service, so this seemed like a good place to start. Netflix does a nice job of breaking down their data usage on their website at

Netflix helps you understand your data usage so you don't have to resort to drastic measures (like watching less!)

For Netflix, HD content takes up to 3 gigabytes (GB) per hour while newer Ultra-HD content displayed by new 4k Ultra-High Definition TVs takes up to 7 GB per hour. Over time, streaming video is becoming more bandwidth efficient but this is a very slow process.

Of course, watching free Over-the-air HDTV is one way to completely bypass any data usage restrictions imposed by your internet provider.

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