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How to Stream TV While Avoiding Data Caps

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April 28, 2021

An estimated 20% of households in the United States have cut the cable cord and switched to streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube TV. When you cut the cable cord, you get to pick exactly what you want to watch and only pay for that—this means no more paying for channels you never use. And as a bonus, streaming platforms are often much cheaper than cable subscriptions.

If you’ve already cut the cable cord, you might be facing an obstacle when it comes to your internet data caps.

If you lose track of how much data you use each month and how much you stream, you risk exceeding your data caps. If you do breach your data limit, this can result in data overage fees and a much slower speed for the rest of the month. 

Luckily, there are ways to avoid breaching your data caps while still enjoying social media and streaming videos on the internet.

First, let’s talk about how data caps work.

Data caps 

When you sign up for an internet plan, you will likely have a data cap. A data cap is the monthly allowance or limit of data you can use through your internet connection. When you exceed this limit, whether on accident or intentionally, you may have to cough up overage fees and deal with slower internet until your billing cycle renews the next month.

However, data caps don’t just limit the amount of data you can use per month. They may also restrict how much broadband you can use, even if you haven’t reached or exceeded your data limit yet. In other words, this prevents you from using your internet to its fullest potential, even though you’ve paid for it!

Ways to avoid data caps 

Data caps can be frustrating to deal with, but there are ways to avoid breaching them and paying overage fees while still enjoying your streaming platforms.

Here are some of the best tips.

Avoid streaming in high definition 

One of the reasons streaming is eating up so much of your data might be your video quality. Streaming in 4K HD can use up as much as four gigabytes of data per hour of streaming. For example, streaming one episode of The Mandalorian can cost you up to 4 GB of data.

To cut down on your data use, be selective about what you watch in high definition. If you’re excited about a new movie being released or are hosting a watch party for a newly released episode, watch it in HD. However, if you’re watching reruns or just putting on a show for background noise, consider switching the quality to standard definition. Unlike high-definition streaming, standard definition only uses around half a gigabyte per hour of streaming.

Turn off your streaming service 

Turning off your streaming service may seem like an obvious solution, but you might not be in the habit of completely powering down your streaming box, especially if you’ve just recently cut the cable cord. Even if you power your TV off, your streaming box won’t necessarily power off with it. This can burn through your data limit and cause you to breach your data cap.

To avoid this, get in the habit of returning to the homepage of your streaming device when you’re finished watching. This ensures that your streaming device won’t keep running even though your screen is off and helps you avoid breaching your data caps.

You can also plug any Roku remotes or your Amazon TV Fire Stick into your TV’s USB port. This powers them down whenever you power off your TV, so you won’t have to worry about remembering to return to your home screen. Alternately, you can hold down your remote’s home button to turn off connected devices and cause your device to go into sleep mode.

Another reason you may be burning through data may involve your nightly routine. If you enjoy falling asleep to Netflix or YouTube videos, this could be the culprit for why your data is running out so quickly. Luckily, there are ways you can adjust your streaming services settings so you can keep falling asleep to an episode.

While there are no sleep-timers offered for streaming services, there are ways to adjust the settings. For Netflix, you can go to your account page, click on playback settings, and adjust the autoplay option by turning off the “Play next episode automatically” switch. Similarly, Amazon Prime Video offers an autoplay option that you can turn off by going to the playback tab.

Download your most-watched content 

A great and easy way to save your data is to download content you watch a lot. For instance, if you have kids that like to watch the same TV shows or movies over and over, download them. By downloading their favorite videos, you can only use up the data once and they can watch it as many times as they want!

Similarly, if you have to watch the same videos for school or work, or play the same songs over and over, download them once and enjoy them as much as you want without worrying about data caps.

Use an antenna for live TV

This solution may surprise you: If you subscribe to a live TV network such as Hulu live or YouTube TV, you can stream live local television channels. However, you may not have to use internet data while streaming these live stations!

TV antennas have been out of the game for quite some time, so it may come as a shock that they can actually help you pick up these live channels for free. Plus, an antenna is relatively cheap and easy to install!

You can also use a TV antenna for recording content on a DVR. This lets you collect a catalog of content you enjoy watching while avoiding streaming altogether and saving you data each month!

Choose your internet provider carefully

If you have tried all the suggestions above and still end up breaching your data caps and paying overage fees each month, you may want to consider switching internet plans or providers. Shopping around for different plans can help you get a good idea of what data coverage you need, and which plans are best for you and your budget!

Here are some tips for finding the best internet plans for you.

  1. Keep track of how much data you use

The best way to determine which internet provider and plan you need is to look at how much data you use each month and go from there. Most internet providers have ways you can monitor your data usage from an app or their website.

Get into a habit of checking your data use throughout the month to track how much you’re using and avoid breaching your data caps. This will also help you get a good idea of how much data you need if you want to switch plans.

  1. Know what speed you need

It’s also important to know what internet speed you need before switching plans. The Federal Communications Commission recommends at least 25 Mbps for a larger family or household, especially if you like streaming in 4K.

For more information on determining what internet speed you need, here are some guidelines.

  1. Choose what kind of internet you want

There’s a variety of internet connections to choose from when switching plans and providers. For those who want the fastest download speed with the least data caps, consider choosing fiber internet. You can also choose from cable, DSL, and satellite internet connections depending on your needs and preferences.

  1. Pick the best provider for you

If you still find yourself running into data caps, consider purchasing an unlimited plan! Using an unlimited plan doesn’t mean you can stop keeping track of your data, but it does eliminate limits and data overage fees.

Some internet providers who offer plans without data caps are:

  • AT&T Fiber
  • Frontier
  • Verizon Fios
  • Xfinity


Streaming movies and binge-watching your favorite TV shows is more than just a fun way to de-stress. It can bring you and your loved ones closer together! So, you shouldn’t have to worry about exceeding your data caps and paying overage fees for the streaming networks you subscribe to.

Thankfully, by adjusting some simple settings, making a few accommodations, and downloading the content you can, you can eliminate data overages and minimize your data needs. And if all else fails, finding a new internet provider is easy and may end up saving you more money in the long run!