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PlusNet sends warning letter to the heaviest peak time users
Tuesday 09 August 2005 11:54:00 by Andrew Ferguson

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:

Dear customer,

Here at PlusNet we’re committed to providing a quality Internet service at a great-value price. It is only through careful management of our network that we are able to provide excellent service at great value for all our customers.

For this to be possible, all customers neead to understand that broadband is a contended service. This means being aware that consistently using extremely high amounts of data transfer has a negative effect on all our other customers.

It has been previously stated that customers regularly using in excess of 100GB per month are using the service in an unsustainable manner.

It has to come to our attention that your connection has consistently been used in excess of 150GB per month, mainly during peak times. We consider this to be unsustainable, and the combined impact of unreasonable usage affects all our other customers. You can view your usage at . You can also see peak times at .

In order to protect the broadband platform and maintain the experience for all our customers, we are taking steps to reduce the impact of unsustainable usage customers.

During the next 14 days you must revise your usage patterns and use less than 50GB of data transfer, to equate to an average of less than 100GB per month. This is measured as a combined total of upstream and downstream traffic. We will monitor your usage throughout this period to see if there is any alteration in the way you use the service.

If you continue to use your service unsustainably we will apply a managed usage profile to your connection and will strictly apply a 30:1 PlusNet contention ratio. For a 2Mb customer this could result in a throughput of around 67Kbps. This will result in your current unsustainable usage not adversely affecting our other customers and the broadband network.

If you choose to change your usage patterns and use the service more reasonably, there will be no change to your service. However, we will continue to monitor your usage and we will immediately apply the managed usage profile to your connection if your usage returns to unsustainable levels.

Should you wish to cancel your service or request your MAC Key as a result of receiving this email, we will waive any outstanding contract rental charges. However, if you have any deferred hardware, migration or activation payments, these must be paid in full.

We are taking this action to protect the quality of service for all of our other customers. Please see clause 11.2 of our Terms and Conditions for details – .

To ensure the level of service we offer to all our customers remains consistently high, we will be monitoring usage on a monthly basis and contacting customers, such as you, who are negatively impacting the service of others.

Kind Regards,
Customer Support

Copy of letter to small number of PlusNet customers

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:

  • PlusNet has only emailed those users who have used more than 150GB in at least two out of three months
  • There are users whose use may exceed 150GB who have not being contacted. This is down to things like the user carrying out their own traffic management by limiting speeds during peak times.
  • The managed profile that users will be placed on if their pattern does not alter, is different to the standard one.
  • If the PlusNet network has spare capacity, managed users should see their speeds increase to a lot more than the 67 kilo bits per second of the letter. Conversely this means at peak times, the managed users may speeds slowing right down to 67kbps.
  • The 50GB reduced usage for two weeks, this is the total, both off-peak and peak.

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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