Will DIRECTV DVRs kill your data cap?

Look, I’m not saying no. The truth is that if you watch pay-per-view movies on DIRECTV there might be a problem if your internet service provider isn’t generous with data.

DIRECTV’s DVRs want to be connected to the internet. A lot of their enhanced services depend on it. So it’s not unimaginable that a DIRECTV system could actually suck down 10-20GB of data per month just from doing nothing. That number’s pretty high but it’s not impossible depending on how you search. The big killer though is pay-per-view. DIRECTV has two pay-per-view systems: one is satellite-driven, the channels between 100 and 200. Those channels don’t suck up any of your data. However, if you want true on-demand programming, whether it’s a pay-per-view movie or any of the 10,000+ programs available from DIRECTV, they all come over the internet. If you use the Restart feature to rewind a program from before you tuned to it, that also uses your internet.

DIRECTV programming uses variable bit rate, so every program is different. However, as a general rule of thumb, figure about 3-5GB per hour of programming. A movie could be more depending on the quality level. DIRECTV 1080p programming doesn’t be definition take up more space but often times those movies are set up to be a little higher quality than your garden variety home show.

So, it’s pretty easy to see how as few as 5 pay-per-view movies a month could eat up a stingy data cap, and let me tell you the issue is going to get worse with 4K. Most 4K programming is downloaded not streamed at the moment and it’s looking like 4K could be 30-60GB per hour depending on the quality level.

The only way to make sure that your DIRECTV DVR isn’t sucking up data is to disconnect it from the internet. This means finding the point of connection (if it’s a physical thing) and disconnecting it, or resetting the DVR’s network settings so it can no longer see a wireless network. That’s the only way to deal with it from the DVR side. If you’re a network whiz, you may be able to set access restrictions from your router which could still let you use some advanced services without completely blowing your data allowance for the month.

Right now, DIRECTV downloads still count toward data caps, even on AT&T systems that have them. There’s a philosophy called “zero rating” that could change that. It would boil down to AT&T identifying that data and flagging it as identical to what you would get off satellite, and make sure that it’s provided by DIRECTV’s (or AT&T’s) own servers. At that point, AT&T could legally say that you wouldn’t be charged for that data or it wouldn’t count against your cap. They would still be in compliance with net neutrality rules as well.

For now though, and if you don’t have AT&T as your internet service provider, be careful if you are living under the scourge of a data cap.