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2022 report: Internet users are gobbling data by the half-terabyte

Robin Layton

Aug 4, 2022 — 4 min read

We're consuming more internet data than ever before. What's it all mean?

Man with two kids on laptops

The world of online data and its usage is confusing. But, if you look at the numbers and make some real-world comparisons, the amount of internet data we are using may astound you. 

For instance, did you know that, according to Teradata.com, “it has been estimated that 10 terabytes could hold the entire printed collection of the U.S. Library of Congress, while a single TB could hold 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Brittanica?”

Of course, we most likely don’t need 1,000 copies of an encyclopedia at our fingertips, but that’s how much data some internet users are churning through monthly.

According to The Benton Institute’s analysis of OpenVault’s Broadband Insights Report for the first quarter of 2022,  “The OpenVault statistics continue to show a huge number of users consuming more than 1 terabyte of data per month. At the end of the first quarter, 14.6% of homes used more than 1 terabyte of data, including 2.4% who used over 2 terabytes. That’s a significant increase since the first quarter of 2021 when 10% of homes used more than 1 terabyte of data – a year-over-year growth rate of 46%.”

Monthly household broadband consumption 2010 to 2022

The monthly average of data consumed by internet users in the same period was 513.8 GB, or over half a terabyte. This is up 11% from the 2021 4th quarter report.

To put the report’s numbers into perspective, way back in 2010, the average surfer was using 9 GB a month. 

Just so you’re aware, a 1 GB data plan can enable you to listen to eight hours of high-quality music from a service like Spotify without disruption, according to usmobile.com.

By the numbers

Here’s a list of data measurements from smallest to largest:

  • Kilobyte (KB)
  • Megabyte (MB) – 1,000 KB
  • Gigabyte (GB) – 1,000 MB
  • Terabyte (TB) – 1,000 GB
  • Petabyte (PB) – 1,000 TB

Now, jump to 2022 and take a moment to realize that 1 TB equals 200,000 five-minute songs, 310,000 pictures or 500 hours worth of movies, according to Teradata.com, and that most of us are accessing over half of that already.

A Pew Research report released in 2021 stated that 93% of American adults use the internet, compared to about half of American adults in 2000, so more of us have access than ever before to download music, watch movies and more. We also have about 22 internet-connected devices in our homes that we frequently access, too, which also adds to the growing need for more data use at faster rates.

Speed is king

Not only are internet users data hungry, but we’re also becoming speed freaks. From the fourth quarter of 2021, “nearly 1 in 5 subscribers (18%) now receives broadband speeds of 500 Mbps or faster,” states the OpenVault report. “As subscribers continued to move into faster speed tiers, the 100 – 200 Mbps speed tier declined by 54% in 1Q22.” The report also found:

  • The gigabit subscriber tier in the 1st quarter of 2022 reached 13.4%, up nearly 37% from a year ago (9.8%).
  • At 50%, the 200 – 400 Mbps speed tier was the most popular.
  • The slowest speed tier of less than 50 Mbps continues to shrink, at 7.6%, down 25% from a year ago (10.1%).

The 2020 COVID-19 affect

From the onset of the pandemic in 2020, we figured out quickly that home internet access was critical to businesses, schools, government and medical facilities, and retail establishments to keep the economy and services flowing smoothly. It wasn’t always easy or affordable for everyone to access the internet or ramp up their current service plans to fit the need for more data and speed.

What we learned in 2020 from the OVBI 2020 report on estimated broadband usage and the FCC Broadband Usage report is that the average household used 3.5 times the amount of internet data they were in 2015 and the average household is using 38 times the amount of internet data they were over a decade ago.

In 2020, Allconnect studied these reports and predicted that “in a matter of years the average household usage total is likely to exceed 1 TB of data per month.”

In May 2020, it was noted in a National Library of Medicine article that internet services had seen rises in usage from 40% to 100%, compared to pre-lockdown levels. Video-conferencing services like Zoom saw a 10 times increase in usage.

What’s this mean to you?

With the number of internet users who hit a terabyte a month in data usage climbing, it is important to note that many major ISPs like Xfinity, HughesNet and Cox have data caps set at 1 TB or lower, where, if exceeded, consumers would be on the hook for overage fees that can drastically increase a monthly internet bill.

As businesses and employees have learned to pivot operations to more remote work-at-home scenarios and automated online processes like banking and telemedicine, those numbers are still increasing. If you find that your internet plan is not keeping pace with your usage, here are some providers who offer unlimited data plans:

As the demand for more internet data – at faster speeds – increases, OpenVault’s conclusions recommend that ISPs study the trend and the value of unlimited data plans and gigabit speed options for their consumers.

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Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor with Allconnect. She works closely with the content team writers to ensure consumers get a fair and balanced reporting of the state of broadband services to help them understand the pro… Read more

Joe Supan

Edited by:

Joe Supan

Principal Writer, Broadband Content

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