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Does Your Internet Service Have a Data Cap? Find Out Before You Have to Pay Up.

There's a reason a lot of people have stopped going to movies—it's expensive, especially in big cities. That's the same reason why many of those people have started watching, or "streaming," movies over the Internet. It's easy, cheaper, and you don't have to buy a bucket of popcorn and a large drink for the price of a used car.

In fact, a lot of these same people now watch news and shows on the Internet as well. It's easy, convenient and, well, it just feels more "hip" and in tune with the times. And of course the younger crowd, the kids in the family, have simply grown up getting most of their entertainment—movies, TV shows, special series—via the Internet.

But for some people, that new way of doing things has backfired, because their cable companies are charging them for exceeding their monthly limit of data.

Who even knew there was one!

Cable companies call it a data cap...an amount of data you're allowed for your monthly subscription fee. And being penalized for going over a plan's allotment—which cable companies refer to as a surcharge—has become more and more commonplace. Cable company customers call it all a major pain in their style...and finances.

First our cell phones, now our home Internet?

It's not unlike the plans your cellphone provider has for talk minutes (which oftentimes is combined with allowable text usage). If you max out those limits and go over, there's a price to pay.

The phone comparison is interesting for another reason: People, in general, have stopped talking on the phone as much. Texting, email and social media have taken the place of phone conversations. The "home phone" is almost dead. Technology has changed our habits.

Too much of a good thing.

The Internet did the same thing. It became the new entertainment and information source on our desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablets. And the explosion of social media and apps like Instagram has reshaped our world. How we get our entertainment has changed—it's now at our fingertips and on demand. Television is hanging on for dear life.

That was fine with everyone, until suddenly it started to hit the family finances when data caps were routinely being exceeded. For many cable customers, it felt like a trap. All these exciting new things to do online, which the whole family embraces, and then you get charged MORE for using it too much.

A pain to the plan.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in the first half of 2015, there were approximately 900 complaints from consumers to the Federal Communications Commission about Internet data caps. But in the second half of last year, the number of complaints shot up to almost 8,000.

In the first quarter of 2016, about 1,500 consumers complained to the FCC about data caps.

AT&T reportedly charges $10 for every 50 gigabytes over the limit, and Comcast is said to charge the same. Those two providers aren't alone in their restrictive plans: Cox Communications and Suddenlink Communications also have data caps. However, other ISPs have no data-usage limits. Time-Warner Cable is one such company, and they even offer a plan that puts a cap on data for a lower monthly charge.

However, there's this to think about: You have to pay more each month to get unlimited data.

Suddenly, the Internet is not so much fun.

As one customer was quoted, "So let's see. You pay for your Internet connection; then you pay for services like Netflix to watch cool stuff. But that causes you to get charged extra for watching too much media. Something's wrong."

Another customer, who canceled his Netflix account, was quoted as saying, "It makes no sense to pay for a service like Netflix if I'm going to get charged two or three times more than what I'm paying for it by my Internet Service Provider for watching it."

But once a family has gotten used to a certain level of services—and adapted to a new lifestyle—it's hard to go back to the old ways.

That's what a nurse and mom in Nashville, Tennessee, concluded. To solve family squabbles about Internet data usage and caps, she simply forked over an extra $35 each month to her ISP to put the problem to rest.

As quoted by The Wall Street Journal, she said, "I had no choice. How am I gonna tell my 30-plus-year-old husband he can't do what he wants to do in his free time?"

Some information for this article appeared in a front page article from The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2016.

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