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PlusNet takes action over heaviest users
Tuesday 16 November 2004 13:18:00 by Andrew Ferguson

PlusNet yesterday managed to set light to a large keg of gunpowder with an email sent out to around 0.3% of its users. A copy of the text PlusNet has on its Status page is shown below:

You may be aware that we have just recently increased our Broadband platform capacity (See announcement "New 155Mb Segment Goes Live").

As part of the recently announced work, investigating BT's load balancing issues on the central pipes, we've been looking at how much of the total capacity customers have been using across our Broadband delivery platform over the last 3 months.

It has been identified that a small proportion of our Broadband customers (less than 0.3%) are using a significant amount of the available capacity (around 10%).

So far, the platform's configuration has allowed these customers to use a disproportionate amount of the available capacity. We have continued to over-provision platform capacity to ensure this usage doesn't adversely affect the rest of our Broadband customers.

This situation cannot continue indefinitely. We will be taking steps to ensure that the high levels of performance and stability that our customers have come to expect from us are maintained.

We anticipate that the proposed configuration changes may affect the small number of customers we have already identified, and we will be contacting these customers later today in order that we can work with them to minimise any effects.

By deciding to take this action we will ensure high quality of service to all of our Broadband customers.

Please note that if you do not receive an email from us today, you are not affected by this change.

With Regards,

Customer Support.

PlusNet Status page posting

It would appear that the definition for inclusion in this crowd moving over to its own pipe, is that you downloaded an average of 140GB per month for a 3 month period. To give some idea of how much 140GB is, it is roughly equivalent to watching a 400kbps video stream permanently ever hour and every day of a month. A move by an ISP such as this is going to prove very unpopular with the users affected, because they will now be looking at sharing a large pipe that has all the other heavy users clustered on it. This means at peak times their speeds are almost certainly going to be more heavily affected due to contention. The upside is that the other 99.7% of PlusNet users may see their peak time service improve.

It is likely we will be seeing many comments about the fact that a service is advertised as unlimited or uncapped, but it is plainly sold as a contended service, and most service providers retain a clause in their Terms and Conditions to allow them to carry out changes that ensure the QoS for the majority. If people curtail the amount they download/upload slightly then its entirely possible that people on the 'heavy users' pipe at PlusNet will not see their speeds drop drastically.

We expect other ISPs to be viewing what happens very carefully, as the problem of 0.3% of users using 10% of bandwidth is something not unique to any one provider. Similar figures can be seen elsewhere.


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