Sign In

How Data Caps May Limit Your House of Cards Viewing Marathon

Netflix and Amazon are pushing 4K content to the masses, but data caps from companies like Comcast may keep customers from enjoying their HD streams.
Published

The much-anticipated second season of House of Cards arrived last Friday and if you binge-watched the entire season in one weekend, your cable provider may want a word with you.

Though many aren't aware, your ISP monitors data usage. Go over your cap and you may be throttled, billed extra, or have your account suspended. Comcast recently made a bid to merge with Time Warner Cable, and while the latter imposes no data caps on its customers, Comcast has in the past and continues to do so. It's still too early to predict whether or not Time Warner Cable customers will be slapped with data caps should the merger go through, but as more people turn to Netflix and Amazon as their main source of TV entertainment, it's a question we need to address now.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has shared his concerns over data limits, and although many ISPs try to reassure us that their caps don't affect the average Internet user, technology continues to evolve: our gaming consoles, Roku boxes, and Smart TVs are demanding access to more data with each new iteration. So it's only a matter of time before those caps do begin to affect us all.

4K Streaming: The Wave of the Future?

Despite some impressive deals, 4K HDTVs are still a novelty for most people, but that's not stopping manufacturers from flooding the market with the new technology. Netflix and Amazon have announced their support for 4K streaming, meanwhile a host of other companies like Lions Gate, Samsung, and Warner Bros. are also working to bring 4K into your living room. Soon enough prices will drop enough for more people begin experimenting with 4K HDTVs.

New compression codecs such as H.265 or HVEC (High Efficiency Video Coding) promise 4K streams without guzzling too much data, but as everyone consumes more content, users are bound to hit their data caps more often than not.

Unfortunately, there aren't many ISPs to choose from, and with Comcast and Time Warner taking up close to 30% of the market (should their merger pass), the threat of data caps has become all too real. But will the risk of being throttled or slapped with a surcharge by your ISP keep you from binge-watching your favorite shows in HD or 4K? Tell us about your streaming habits in the comments below.


Related DealNews Features:
Senior Features Writer

With over a decade of experience covering technology, Louis Ramirez has written for CNET, Laptop, Gizmodo, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @louisramirez.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
You might also like
16 comments
saginawmale50
300gb? wow...I have to try to hit 100 and thats lots of netflix, slingbox, amazon on demand, and listening to hours of spotify along with surfing the internet and using a voip. Some people should be paying extra to use over 300. Those people are jamming up the network.
lindacrosby
besides that i have no clue as what i use and how to find it
lindacrosby
this is so much crap push us to buy ,then fine us for using. only in America.
weiliwang
Data cap is an incredibly backwards way of thinking. While Asian and European countries are steadily increasing broadband availability and speed, here in the good ol USA we are going back to the AOL days and start LIMITING what people can do AND charge them more but not increasing the speed much, if at all.
Jeji
I am waiting for Google Fiber to extend their network to more states, they offer 1 gb speed for $70/month and $120/month for cable+internet. Google will be a legit competitor for Comcast if the merger with TWC goes through.
R2sd3
I only load basic webpages and don't stream very much video at all. I can't wait until tiered pricing comes along and I can pay less money because I barely use any bandwidth at all.
johnegopher
I have Windstream 12mbps dsl and LOVE IT. Their service to my house has been nearly flawless for several years, and they have no cap. Here's a quote from Windstream's website,"Does Windstream have caps on data usage?
Windstream does not manage network congestion by capping an individual customer's usage, reducing the speed of an individual customer's service once a certain amount of usage is exceeded, or other similar strategies. " Netflix,Hulu+, MLB, and Amazon Prime, it's nice knowing I can watch all of them I want. Sorry for all you folks with more restrictive situations, that really stinks.
regularg0nz0
Meh. If Comcast starts capping, me that means it's time to do something else with my time, just like it was time to stop channel surfing and cut the cable when the bill was $125 a month.

We tend to forget that all of this is a time-wasting luxury, and most of us would do well to dial-back our consumption.
vwoom
What data caps?!

I'm done with my House of Cards S2 marathon...in fact, I've viewed it twice so far...on shall I say "3.5K" Super HD quality video sharp performance of my Premium app loaded (incl Netflix) 55" LG 55LA6970 with a bombastic, ultraslim LG NB4532B sound bar/subwoofer combo I slapped on last Feb 14, just in the nick of time arrival for the HOC S2 release...running on only 2.5GB DSL speed (the thing has an upscaler for sharper pics). Hah!!!
Aeromot
Of course Comcast wants to cap data, since it has a variety of reasons to stop cord-cutters with its interests in NBC, various cable companies, etc. Another reason this merger should be blocked.
johnbarryegan
Just wanted to add one more comment...It would be handy if there was a means of knowing which of the several appliances in our home (or who's appliance) is the data hog. Unfortunately, there is no means of determining which one is consuming the data...if that's even really an issue.
johnbarryegan
After hitting my 125 GB peak for the third time with Suddenlink (our 4 person household has several computers, smartphones and tablets and we all watch different things), I paid extra for $250 GB. Now I've rec'd my 3rd warning from Suddenlink. I've done everything I can think of to reduce our usage, such as watching Netflix and Hulu on the lowest possible resolution (so much for Apple iPads with their 4 times the resolution displays...) , but aside from running around the house and imposing blackouts every third day, I see nothing else to do. A single guy I know consumes $125 GB monthly and he works full time outside the home as do all of us. Suddenlink sends emails saying we consume 'more than the average in our area'. I really hate the thought of giving up Hulu and Netflix and returning to crappy TV programming at $70 PM and having to view only when the networks decide I should watch.
mirrormirror
I use a lot of data without counting streaming video, and Comcast would charge much more if I stayed with them. Unfortunately, in my area, the only other >10Mbps choice is AT&T, and they are just as bad or worse with even stricter data caps last I checked. So, I went with a small local telco: sonic. net. Even though I can’t get higher speed thanks to being behind a remote terminal that AT&T controls, I do get truly unmetered and non-choked service. The best part is the support reps who answer the phone without a calling tree to navigate actually know what they’re talking about & are as knowledgable as actual repair technicians, unlike Comcast’s & AT&T’s level 2 support reps. who don’t know what RSSI & signal termination even means.
LonnieMcClure
Comcast's data cap (which is currently suspended for my area) doesn't appear to be much of an issue for me. Due to being between assignments, I've been viewing far more streaming video than I normally would, and I am sitting at 84GB of usage for the 16 days since the beginning of the billing period. At that rate, I would use only 158GB in a typical month.

Two items to keep in mind: 1. I am a single person household. 2. Due to my old HDTV, I view in 720p, not 1080p. Factor those two in an even a 300GB cap could easily become a problem for a household with multiple users.
Slaz5
Home internet should not have data caps, it's just not fair. No where to escape the greedy companies that control data. With technology advancing, it should be cheaper for people to stream not getting more and more expensive.
ravanshr
I had to cancel my Netflix connection as Comcast imposed a data cap of 300GB per month and each additional 50GB is $10. They allow three free overages in 12 months period but that is of no use.. My kid loves to watch cartoons and other shows in Netflix, but I am forced to quit the service as I overrun my data limit..As technology grows ISP's need to find ways to serve people needs and not restrict them.. They collect premium charge from customers but do not fullfill their needs.. I was with Optimum ISP when i was in Tri-State Area and they are the best both in terms of speed and no data caps.. I hope they soon expand their service down South.. It is a pain to keep monitoring your data usage day on day..
Leave a comment! or Register