In late 2004, we saw Plusnet take action over the heaviest users of its services, in that case the users affected were using a minimum of 140GB and in many cases upto 600GB a month. The New Year brings Supanet to the forefront, since they are running a two level system at least in the short term. The heavier users are moved to a different part of the network, which appears to give users much slower speeds, in some cases it seems downloads are below the speed of old fashioned PSTN access.
This move by Supanet on the face of it does not seem unreasonable, until you look at some of the users who are are affected. We are seeing on our forums users who are moved onto the slower network with daily transfers of around 300MB to 600MB, and it seems this is only averaged out over a single day. The fact that a one-off download can get a user moved onto the slower pipe for a couple of days means even many light users are affected. For an ISP that on its own website makes a great deal of not having a bandwidth limit and being cheaper than competitors with caps this is pushing the words unmetered and unlimited a bit too far.
Supanet has posted on its ISP status pages and our forums a statement about the bandwidth management. This highlights that a new BT Central is planned for the week commencing 17th January 2005. If the arrival of the new BT Central will mean a significant relaxing in the management regime then that is welcome. If the dual network system remains in place, then perhaps it is time for Supanet to consider re-wording its advertising and website. The current situation is that it seems people have a system in place just as restrictive as other ISPs who publicise the cap clearly.
It seems in part that this situation has arisen from the competitive price point Supanet was selling its services at, particularly the 1Mbps service. Perhaps the moral when looking for an ISP therefore is not necessarily to follow the rest of the crowd, as things can become very crowded very quickly.
On a final note, we should say that while there are many providers still selling unmetered/unlimited ADSL packages, people should remember that most home ADSL packages are contended at up-to 50:1 and thus are a shared resource. So usage in excess of 100GB a month on a 0.5Mbps account, would be seen by most as excessive use. So a balance needs to be struck by users and the ISPs. To some extent part of the problem lies with BT Wholesale and Ofcom, the regulatory regime has allowed BT to roll-out new products to ISPs that make handling wide variations in how users use broadband more difficult and expensive.
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