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Internet Usage Caps-The Days of the Wide Frontier Are Over

Updated on June 18, 2009
You're using too much internet, stop!
You're using too much internet, stop!

Internet Usage Cap, Words of Doom?

Let me familiarize you with a new term you will soon know all too well, and gro to hate: "internet usage cap". These three little words mean a world of pain for those of use who use the internet for anything more than casual surfing. Use VoIP? Stream video to your computer or TV? Play any online games? Then you should pay darn close attention to these words, and learn what they mean to you.

Let me share my lovely little story of how I became acquainted with the term "internet usage cap". Breezing through the door one day after work I plopped down at my computer to check my Hubpages account. Low and behold, a new and completely foreign screen pops up which says "You have exceeded your internet usage quota of 12 GB per month. In order to access the internet please follow the link below to pay to add more GB to your account." So, I follow the link, add 5 GB and hope it lasts me the rest of the month. The next DAY I get the same screen again. This is when I realize something is VERY wrong. Welcome to the world of internet usage caps Cennywenny, how do you like being sucker-punched?

My Bandwidth Eating Machine

What is an Internet Usage Cap?

In short, an internet usage cap is a limit to how much you can upload or download to your computer through the internet. So, one web page averages around 10kb, which means it would take over one million page views to eat up the 12 GB limit I was given. Doesn't seem so bad right?

But wait just a moment...Isn't the internet a lot more versatile than that these days? Well, sure it is. You can use it for phone service, to stream movies and music, and a whole other host of things. BUT, with a little math I figured out that my Roku box, which streams movies from Netflix to my TV (I love you Roku) eats up to 5 GB for one HD movie. Wow! There goes half my limit in one hour! Oh, and my MMORPG had a 1 GB major patch, ouch!

Basically an internet usage cap limits how much internet you can use, then cuts you off and makes you pay more when you use it up. The days of carefree internet are over my friends.

Where's my movie?
Where's my movie?

Which Companies Have Internet Usage Caps?

 Of course, the idea for Internet usage caps began with the giants of the telecommunications industry, like Comcast and Time Warner. Currently Comcast has a 250 GB limit per month, and Time Warner is testing usage caps in several areas. 250 GB seems like a lot, and would be plenty for me, but in households say with more than one computer or streaming device (like the Roku), that could be used up pretty quickly. Plus, it means one more device that needs to be monitored for usage, just like a cell phone.

Of course, the evil giants aren't the only ones with internet usage caps, even your friendly local companies are instituting them, and with ridiculously small limits. Two local companies in my area recently instituted 15 GB and 12 GB caps, including my old provider. Hello, Comcast has 250 GB! You know it's bad when an evil corporate giant with low consumer approval gives out more bandwidth than a local company.

Why Have Internet Usage Caps?

If you ask service providers this question they will most likely blather on about people who abuse the privilege and hog up servers and yada yada. But, people like this are VERY rare, and I certainly don't think using streaming devices and VoIP qualifies as "abuse" of my internet privileges. What I do think is happening is the service providers are finding new ways to squeeze consumers who have left services like traditional cable TV and phone service for internet based technologies like VoIP and streaming video. If they can't get you to use their services the companies will cut you off at the pass and force you to reduce your internet consumption, effectively forcing you to turn to old technologies like cable and traditional landlines, or to do without completely. Oh yeah, you can also pay exorbitant amounts for extra bandwidth. My local company charges the low price of $5.50 for 5 GB, which I use in about a day. Great bargain!

What Can You do About It?

 There is only one way to deal with companies who institute internet usage caps, and that is to leave, immediately. Don't let them sweet talk you or tell you "it's just a test". Leave for greener pastures and let your old company know why you are leaving. If enough people start to complain maybe the service providers will finally get it. It's not that I am necessarily against usage caps completely, but 12 GB is in no way, shape, or form a fair amount for my $40 per month.

You can also form local action groups or write your local representative about the problem of internet usage caps. Visit (link to the right) to find out more information on actions you can take to oppose internet usage caps.

Finally, a nice paper trail always helps. Write an old fashioned complaint letter to the company, it will probably get more notice than a phone call. Make sure it is professional and well-worded, and make sure you let the company know you are forwarding the letter on to your local representative. Forcing change may not be pretty, but in a recession, shouldn't companies being doing more for us, rather than chopping us off at the knees? Good luck fighting against the devilry that is internet usage caps!


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    • Cassandra Goduti profile image

      Cassandra Goduti 6 years ago from Guilford, Connecticut

      Internet usage caps are bad for business. Charging for streaming and downloading effects how much work one can accomplish. AT&T stated less that 1% download and stream and that is why they are charging. I believe that number is false. Streaming video uses 2GB per hour. That is highway robbery and oppression.

    • RobertHassey profile image

      RobertHassey 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      The idea of Internet usage cap is interesting. If your service provider keeps a tab on your usage and bills you for it, you may want to switch to another one. But I think the good thing about wanting to put a ceiling on your surfing time would have to be this: hours and hours of surfing is bound to be unproductive, work-wise. So an Internet discipline of sorts is useful for keeping your productiveness in check.