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EFH Broadband introduces two tier service
Monday 24 April 2006 11:39:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The word 'unlimited' is perhaps one of the most abused words in the broadband market. Some providers just take it to mean unlimited time online, and others take the view that once you are using more than the average user they will slowly reduce your potential throughput to the point that it is like having an ISDN service. These behaviours are what is hidden away in the various usage policies, that generally get a short mention in advertising, i.e. just enough mention that the ASA allows the continued use of the word 'unlimited'. The reality is that there is no truly unlimited broadband service unless you are paying the full cost of this sort of usage, which is generally in the £100's per month.

EFH Broadband appears to be the latest to take a firmer stance on the usage of its customers, and the switch from unmanaged unlimited connections to a managed connection is never going to be a smooth one from the end-user point of view. Perhaps announcing the changes and introducing it on a Saturday evening is not the best way, and on Monday at 10:20am the 2Mbps and slower packages are still being listed as under revamp.

EFH Broadband seems to be looking at peoples current and past usage, and where it believes the users will go over 100GB in a month it is moving them onto a more restricted service. Doing this before people actually breach the 100GB line is possibly a recipe for disaster, as some people are going to be affected by a few days heavy usage. This type of fair use policy is not that uncommon, i.e. some providers alter your ability to hit maximum speeds based on the usage of a single day. The preferred method is to take averages over a longer period of time, or to prioritise the different traffic types, so that time critical services like gaming and VoIP are never restricted, but P2P type traffic only runs at faster speeds in the off peak hours.

Why does the UK seem to have so many providers acting against heavier users? Well it may be because of how we use broadband, and also from the price sensitivity. In fact the price problem is going to get worse, now that free broadband seems to be a popular word in the press, any provider that tries to increase its prices to allow it to maintain its users usage patterns, may see a mass exit of customers. Other than LLU services, the reality is most providers still use a BT Wholesale infrastructure which has not seen significant reductions in price since 2004, but usage has increased at the same time and retail prices have dropped drastically, as all providers try to compete with the LLU suppliers. The end result is a market that is skewing to catering for the average user, almost ignoring a small but vocal sector of the market, that is the user for whom their broadband connection is the primary entertainment source.


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