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Broadband Fair Usage

All is fair in love and war. And also broadband usage, apparently.

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Many broadband providers offer web connection deals with ‘unlimited usage’, which relates to the amount of data you can download. Every time you load a web page or stream video content you are downloading data to your web-connected device, and, similar to minutes on a mobile phone, you can have allowances and caps with your service. So when you are offered unlimited data, you would expect that to mean uncapped usage… but that’s not always the case.

Unlimited vs. truly unlimited Most, if not all, providers will have an unlimited downloads offer as one of their broadband packages, and this selling point is essentially true, but at the same time you have to abide by a ‘fair usage policy’. Basically, you can download as much as you like, as long as you aren’t being excessive.

There are packages available that do not include this fair usage policy, and they will be promoted with something along the lines of ‘genuinelyunlimited downloads’ or ‘truly uncapped data downloads’. Always check the terms and conditions! You may well find that breaching fair usage is unlikely in your home, but if you do consistently download movies and music whilst streaming content, it can take you passed the level that is considered reasonable.

Unlimited downloads packages all still offer a really generous allowance, but if you really don’t want to be capped at all then look for a package with genuinely unlimited usage and no fair usage policy.

Fair usage explained Fair usage is in place to keep a degree of control over web traffic. When loads of people use the web at the same time it can slow the service down in that area, and if you are consistently downloading huge files then it’s unfair on those that are a little more conservative with their usage but have to experience slow speeds anyway.

An important thing to consider is the time that you download; late night web activity is always going to be quicker than peak times, like 7-8pm, when everyone wants to use the internet for a bit of social networking or video streaming at home. So if you download during quieter periods then you aren’t really having a major effect on other people’s web experience.

Potential penalties You can expect some kind of contact from your provider before any action is taken; it is likely that excessive downloading would be ignored for maybe a month or two, but then the ISP (internet service provider) would get in touch to tell you that you must make changes to your web activity.

There are various possible steps that could follow should you persist in downloading excessively, such as restricting your usage at peak times or actually limiting the amount you can download. Of course, should you believe that you aren’t being excessive then contact your ISP and try to resolve it that way. If you still aren’t happy you can contact Ombudsmen Services: Communications, which is the appropriate regulatory body.

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