Inside the Internet
What is Data Capping?
Apr 25th, 2019
If you’ve experienced the frustration of waiting and waiting and waiting for r/gameofthrones to load because Is Cersei going to use wildfire?, it may be because your ISP is limiting or throttling your data in a process called “bandwidth capping.”
To be clear, bandwidth capping is a misnomer. The correct term is data capping.
After a customer reaches the specific allotment of data for the month, their ISP could reduce the speed, charge overages, or cut off service, depending on the fine print in your contract or terms of service.
Many ISPs set this number in your contract (sometimes deep in the fine print), so you may not even know about it until you hit your data cap. Once you do, you could either start seeing much slower speeds (bad) or get hit with a surprisingly high bill at the end of the month for going over your cap (much much worse).
Data capping is common, though universally uncool. If you’re wondering if you are affected by it, here is a brief list of providers and policies. Being a member of a multi-person household with a penchant for streaming, uploading or downloading large files puts you at higher risk of getting your data capped.
(Don’t worry. Starry would never play you like that.)
Tips about data capping
To understand data capping, let’s talk about the internet. Think of the internet like an island, with various ways to get to it – bridges, tunnels, ferries, chariots, hot air balloons – which are your internet service providers. They can charge tolls, have speed limits to access the island or not allow certain types of vehicles (ahem, Netflix, YouTubeTV, Hulu) to use the road.
Because the ISPs control access, it can be difficult to bypass the caps. We recommend that you check your contract. Many ISPs refer to bandwidth capping within a “fair usage” or “fair access” policy. Read up on your T’s and C’s. If your contract explicitly states a bandwidth cap, it is probably time to shop for a new provider.
Pro tip: As a condition of a merger, Spectrum is prohibited from imposing data caps or charging usage-based pricing. If you believe you are experiencing bandwidth capping by Spectrum, contact them.
If you think you are experiencing bandwidth/data capping, contact the ISP’s customer service. Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do with your current provider. Holding the internet hostage from paying customers is a bad look and exasperating for users, which is why Starry doesn’t do it. You can check if Starry is already available in your area right here. Because nothing should get between you and your r/gameofthrones (and come on, Cersei is the Mad Queen and will definitely use wildfire).