DIRECTV and data caps: the real story

You might have heard the horror stories. People claim their satellite TV receiver is pushing them over their data cap. I’ve heard them too. And, I have to believe that they’re real. But more importantly, it’s very rare, and it isn’t something you should worry about all the time.

There’s also a level of detail that’s missed when you hear these stories. Home customers usually have pretty generous data caps, if they have data caps at all. So you have to wonder if the people who complain about data caps are using cellular plans. Or maybe, they use a lot of data anyway and their DIRECTV usage just pushed them over the edge

Does a DIRECTV receiver need to be connected to the internet?

This is a question that we still get a lot at Solid Signal. The answer is simple… no it does not “need” to be connected. That said, there are a lot of reasons to get connected.

If you’re still using an older non-Genie system you’ll get some benefits from connecting. In general searches will be faster and you’ll be able to watch stuff on demand. But if you don’t connect your older system to the internet, you’ll be fine. You might get the occasional message about how being connected is better, but it’s not a big deal.

Genie users do get a lot of benefit from being internet connected. In addition to searching and on demand your Genie system will have access to interactive content, such as special experiences for The Masters and other sporting events. You’ll get access to enhanced music choice channels, too. You can even rewind shows before the point you tuned to the channel.

Genie users will get a faster upgrade experience as the Genie 2 DVRs can get new software over the internet instead of satellite. The software can be downloaded and staged without you knowing it, and that means you’ll only have a quick reboot in the middle of the night instead of being offline for 20-40 minutes when updates happen.

All that and more explains why Genie DVRs really want to be connected to the internet. They’ll nag you pretty aggressively if they’re not. But if you don’t want to connect, you still don’t have to.

Will a DIRECTV box push you over your data cap?

In general, no. There have been some documented cases where something didn’t work right and a DIRECTV system kept downloading for hours and hours. This is going to mess up a data cap for sure. But this is a very rare event and certainly not something done on purpose.

Using on demand programming excessively might get you there. In general DIRECTV’s on-demand programs use more data than similar programs streamed from the internet. This is because DIRECTV receivers can’t use more modern decoding like most streaming boxes.

The best thing to do if you’re worried about data caps with your DIRECTV system is avoid on-demand where you can. But, once in a while isn’t going to make much difference. After all, you got DIRECTV because you wanted the whole experience. You may as well enjoy it.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.