If you’re cutting the cord and setting up your new Roku (or Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, or any other streaming TV system), there’s one particular thing to keep in mind as you get going: Data usage.
When you cut the cord, you are, of course, not completely cutting the cord. You still need that cord to deliver internet service. You’re just cutting the TV portion of the cord.
Instead of getting TV straight from the cable company though, you use an alternate service to deliver it over the internet.
Since these services are streaming over the internet, they are using data, and most residential cable services have a data cap. Go over the cap, and you pay extra.
Comcast/Xfinity and AT&T Internet have a data cap of 1 Terabyte (1024 Gigabyte) on their residential services. Both allow you to go over the monthly cap twice without charge.
After those two months, both companies change an additional $10 per 50 Gigabytes used.
According to Comcast’s website, the most they will charge for over-the-cap data is $200/month.
AT&T limits their overage charge is $100 a month for AT&T Internet and $200 a month for DSL and Fixed Wireless Internet.
Comcast offers an unlimited data add on for $50/month, AT&T’s unlimited add on is $30/month. Those would definitely be something to consider if you expect to go over 1 Terabyte on a regular basis.
Testing my own system when streaming live TV through Hulu, the data usage is a steady 2.7 gigabytes an hour (@720p HD). Hulu support confirmed that was the expected usage.
At 2.7 gigabytes an hour, I’d hit my 1 Terabyte monthly limit if I watched Hulu for 280 hours a month. That’s about 12 and a half hours a day.
However, figuring data usage isn’t really that straight forward. Usage will vary by channel, the service being used, definition, and automated and manual settings. Of course, additional uses of the internet will affect the overall data usage as well.
All that said, with my Roku device streaming Hulu several hours a day, my daughter hitting up YouTube regularly, my wife on Facebook, and me on the internet most of the day doing research and answering questions… my family’s data usage for the last month was just about 500 Gigabytes. According to Comcast, fewer than 1% of their customers use more than 1 Terabyte of data a month.
Still, data usage is something you want to be aware of. No one wants to be hit with surprise overage charges.
One way to protect yourself from unintended runaway data usage, according to a Roku support person that I spoke to, is to return to the Roku home screen before turning off your TV. If you don’t, the device will keep streaming in the background, eating up data, even though your TV screen is turned off. This does not apply to TVs with Roku built in, just add on devices.
Other than paying the add on cost for an unlimited plan, another option for users that expect to do heavy streaming would be an internet provider called Toast.net. They are an AT&T reseller with slightly lower rates than AT&T in some cases and no data caps.
Are you a new Roku user?
Tell us what you think of it so far in the comments section below, and be sure to share this post with your friends, family and followers. If they are thinking of cutting the cord, they’ll appreciate the heads up!