Even before New Year celebrations had started, AOL announced a raft of changes to its Conditions of Service including a new Fair Use Policy (FUP). AOL has been one of the few broadband service providers which has been offering an 'unlimited' service whilst other providers have started introducing usage based charges or some kinds of FUP to slow down the increasing bandwidth needs users are placing on providers. Only last week, NewNet, another ISP which has attracted a significant number of high usage customers, announced a series of prices covering most of their broadband services.
The new AOL Conditions of Service outline the company's strategy to protect their network:
"As part of our ongoing commitment to provide reliable and high-quality broadband services, AOL has decided to introduce a Fair Use policy. This enables us to manage the network better and ensure we can continue to deliver the best possible service to our entire subscriber base.
A Fair Use policy means, for example, that we may introduce some form of network management if we feel that specific individuals are abusing their broadband usage beyond a level that would be considered reasonable. For example, using AOL Broadband 24 hours a day, every day, to continuously download large files is not a reasonable use for a residential service.
As another example, we might also manage the AOL Broadband service at peak times to ensure everyone is getting a stable, reliable connection across the whole network. We believe that this policy will help us continue to deliver a high-quality broadband experience and that the vast majority of our broadband subscribers will benefit from the existence of a Fair Use policy."AOL Statement
There will no doubt be speculation as to the timing of the policy change on unlimited usage versus a Fair Use Policy and its relationship to the sale of AOL's UK service to Carphone Warehouse, however it is clear that if the large bandwidth users shift to any group of service providers, they will not be able to maintain an unlimited service without asking other users to subsidise it.
Update 04/01/07 07:26 - AOL have confirmed that this change will affect existing customers from February 1st.