Don’t let a download cap spoil your box-set binge

If you plan to sit out the cold, dark winter by bingeing on Netflix box sets, it’s time to check your broadband download limit.


Many broadband contracts only allow a certain amount of data to be downloaded each month.

This means you could either be left hanging off a cliff for weeks before you can watch the next episode using the following month’s allowance, or forced to stump up extra for any data you download beyond your monthly limit.

So when you’re looking to sign up for a new broadband deal, don’t just compare prices and download speeds. Depending on how you use the web, it’s also vital to check the advertised download limits. This will ensure you have sufficient data capacity to satisfy your watching habits, so you don’t have to ration yourself or fork out more cash.

How download caps work

Sky is offering one year’s free broadband when you pay monthly line rental at £17.40. When you factor in an extra £6.95 for delivery of the broadband router, that works out at £215.75 in total.

But peruse the small print of the Sky advert and you’ll see the deal (like others from rival Internet Service Providers - ISPs) imposes a monthly download limit of 25GB.

In Sky’s case, this means that, if you download more than 25GB of data twice within six months, you’ll be moved onto the next package up – at your expense. Other ISPs may also warn you before charging you for the extra data you download, at a cost per gigabyte.

Of course, for some people, 25GB is more than a generous allowance – after all, 25GB is equivalent to loading between 200,000 and 250,000 web pages.

But if you want to boot up Netflix or a similar streaming video service as the weather starts to chill, hibernating with programmes like Breaking Bad or House of Cards, a download cap could leave you on the edge of your seat until next month’s allowance kicks in.

Where you’ll be left hanging

Given that streaming Netflix in HD for one hour uses up 3GB worth of data, here’s where you could be left hanging with some of Netflix’s most popular TV box-sets when a 25GB download allowance slams on the brakes…

- Breaking Bad: You’d have enough data to see you through the first series, with its climactic showdown between Walt and his new friends. You’d then be able to start series two hoping to see how much trouble the cancer-riddled chemist has got himself into, but after just one episode (with its intriguing black and white opening sequence), you’d hit your limit and have to wait until next month’s 25GB.

- Daredevil: After eight episodes of the first series (there are 13 in total), you’d have just seen the horrific revelation about Fisk’s violent past and learned exactly what our masked vigilante Matt Murdock is on a collision course with. And what about the mysterious Madame Gao, the little old lady who has Fisk shaking in his boots? You’ll have to wait for next month to find out because you’ve hit your download limit.

- Scream: You’re two episodes from the finale and you’re closing in on the identity of the ghost-faced killer. The police have their prime suspect but there are still lots of questions leaving you hanging. What are Hudson and Kieran hiding? Does Piper know more than she’s letting on? Are you going to find out who’s behind the mask before your allowance runs out? No – you’ll have to wait until next month to see the final two parts of the series.

How to beat download limits

Very simply, it might be a matter of switching to a broadband tariff with a higher or unlimited download allowance. That way you won’t have to worry about exceeding your limit and having to fork out for more. Our broadband channel is a great place to start comparing.

You could also change the settings on the settings on Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer or other streaming service to only stream in standard definition (SD). An hour’s streaming in SD will use around 1GB of data, compared to HD’s 3GB. Look for the settings option for more information.

Finally, you could get physical and buy DVD or Blu-ray copies of the series you want to watch, but be prepared to pay proportionately more, or be disappointed as some series are exclusive to the streaming service they’re shown on – such as Daredevil on Netflix.

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