When internet service providers (ISPs) first started talking about data caps, the stated goal was to discourage excessive data usage. They also reminded customers that very few subscribers ever came close to the cap level - it's only the small number of power users and super power users that would be affected by this new rule. At the time, power and super power users accounted for less than 1 percent of internet subscribers. But, the world has changed since then, and it changed in a way that the ISPs predicted.
A new study from the company that has made data caps possible, OpenVault, shows just how the way people use the internet has changed. Since this point in 2019, the number of power users, which are considered those who use more than 1TB of bandwidth per month, has more than doubled. In 2019, 4.2 percent of users were power users, but in 2020, that number has moved to 8.8 percent. The number of super power users, who use more than 2TB od bandwidth per month, has also increased since this point in 2019. The number has nearly tripled, moving from about 0.36 percent to around 1 percent of all users.
So, why is this happening? Because how we use the internet has changed. Some of that is care of the global lockdowns, causing us to work remotely. This means adding daily video calls to our normal workload, which adds a lot of bandwidth usage. 1TB of bandwidth accounts for about 400 hours of HD video streaming. That number goes down when you start streaming 4K video, and goes up when it is less than HD. But, how many video streams do we have during a conference call? Microsoft recently upped its grid to 49 participants. Even in low quality, 49 video streams are going to eat through data.
Add to the business impacts of the lockdowns we've got entertainment streaming. Many families are cutting the cord, but adding Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, CBS All Access, and more. 400 hours of HD video is difficult at over 13 hours per day, if you are single. But a family of 4 only needs about 3 hours per person. With all of that media available, that's going to be easy - especially now.
In addition, we've all got smart homes these days, as well as phones and tablets using our Wi-Fi. It all adds up. And the ISPs knew this - and they knew it was coming. Data caps were a way of preparing their bottom lines for the cord cutting exodus from traditional wireline cable services. And that move seems to have worked.