PlusNet started during the last week sending out a letter to customers whom PlusNet feel are using their connections in a way that affects the quality of service for other customers. A copy of this letter is reproduced in full below:
At the end of July PlusNet had announced that is was carrying out traffic shaping on its Premier products to ensure a reasonable quality of service for the majority of users at peak times. This latest letter would appear to be a progression in the area of managing the network, in particular addressing the issue of a small number of users (around 0.1%) who are downloading and uploading large amounts of traffic during peak and off-peak hours.
The issue is a very emotive one, particularly now, since we are seeing customers who've migrated from one ISP after similar actions onto another ISP, and are seeing the same thing happening. It is also often a difficult topic for people to debate, but it is one the whole industry needs to address. This means regulators, wholesale providers, ISP's, content providers and consumers. One problem is that there would appear to be two groups of users who use a lot of bandwidth, those that are aware of this and the implications, and are willing to adjust usage patterns, for example by scheduling downloads/uploads to the quieter times, and the 'I don't care, I paid for 2Mbps, I want every last bit to be used, every day of the year'. We have no absolute proof, but from what ISP's occasionally say, it seems the average usage for a broadband user each month is around 10GB, so those downloading 150GB per month on a regular basis are well above average.
Of course, to some extent the marketing of broadband in the UK and world-wide has a part to play. Very often providers advertise, things like 'permanent connection', '24/7 downloading', 'unlimited', but fail to clarify these terms. This lack of clarity can pull some customers in, who fail to see or understand what are lengthy terms and conditions, which invariably include clauses such as 'the ISP reserves the right to carry out actions to protect its service for the majority of customers'. There are providers now that have clear limits like 15GB and 30GB, but what is happening is that these providers attract the average consumer, leaving those with no clear limits attracting the 'sumo' user in numbers that are perhaps unsustainable.
Addressing the specifics of this PlusNet letter we have asked some further questions, which we are summarising below:
To give some idea of what 150GB of traffic is, a 0.5Mbps connection, can manage around 225GB in a month (combined total of upstream and downstream). 1Mbps around 375GB, and 2Mbps 675GB. This gives some idea of what the figure PlusNet are using of 150GB is all about. As the amount of broadband content grows we are expecting service providers to adjust the amounts of traffic they consider to be network abuse, or adjust the terms of their fair use policies. Some evidence of this has been the increase in cap from 30GB to 75GB for the NTL 10Mbps service.
The last couple of years has seen massive strides in the afford-ability of broadband services, with 2Mbps available from around £15 a month to £35 a month, where as a few years ago it was £70 and upwards. Much of these price drops have being driven by changes in the wholesale pricing by BT, but this has been at the expense that sustaining the heaviest users is becoming harder, some might say impossible. One option for those who are happy to pay some extra money, is to consider moving to the business tarrifs, where providers may be more lenient due to the increased monthly fees.
A final thought, is that one of the key reasons that ADSL services can be priced as they are, is that the service is a shared one from the exchange out to the Internet.
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