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AOL introduces Fair Use Policy
Tuesday 02 January 2007 09:06:22 by Sebastien Lahtinen

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

AOL has not set out clearly what it considers 'fair' usage and some existing users within contract claim they have been advised this change only affects new users although this is unclear [see update for clarification below]. We would suggest you read any notices sent to you carefully and contact AOL if you have any doubts as to how it will affect you. AOL have also updated their Privacy Policy to prepare for the split between web content and access in relation to the restructuring of the service provisioning.

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.


Posted by jchamier over 10 years ago
Surely you don’t mean "protect the network", you mean sustainable business? There seems to be no explanation that all this download usage limits is driven by the wholesale charges, why not compare against LLU and cable. Or is the problem the peering charges at LINX (etc)?

It seems to this reader that ISPs dont know what their customers want to do online.
Posted by herdwick over 10 years ago
Protecting the network from grinding to a halt is the objective, protecting the service of the many from the few. Classic "tragedy of the commons" stuff. When 100 users can occupy all the bandwidth of a connection capable of sustaining 1000's of users then something has to be done. Spending another £1.2m pa to sustain 100 car boot sale pirate DVD merchants on £20/month services isn't the answer.

LLU is as yet an unrepresentative sample, cable has traffic management and usage limits too.

Seems to this reader that some users aren't prepared to pay for what they use.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 10 years ago
There are not packages OFFERING what people want to use. They're designed to flece unwary uses of vast amounts of cash. And I know precisely how much bandwith costs - most of the per-GB charges are a sick joke.

We are heading rapidly for there being no point paying for a fast connection is this country because you will not be able to use it very much.

This IS allready the case in many countries, of course. So then they start lowering the caps further, to boost the revenue up when people drop down to a lower-speed package...
Posted by herdwick over 10 years ago
BT Central bandwidth costs on average about 70p per GB to get the data from you to the ISP (although it isn't metered). End user connection costs ~£10/month. 15 GB/month for typical prices is workable, 50 GB/month is not. Pay per GB and tiered bandwidth accounts are available from several ISPs.
Posted by jchamier over 10 years ago
Yes, there are offerings from some ISPs that allow people to buy bandwidth. The question I was asking was against the "protect the network" statement. I disagree with herdwick that this is "tradegy of the commons". Ten users on an 8mbps connection shouldn't be able to kill the network if properly designed. Perhaps we should be paying £40/month ..?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 10 years ago
herwick, you and your kind are for some reason determined to cripple broadband in the UK.

If a provider cannot afford an offering, they should not make it. They should not charge Granny £50 extra because she looked at this neat web video thing for a couple of hours.

Advertising for broadband should be required to show the limits ("fair use", "20GB") etc. in the same size font as any claim to be unmetered or unlimited.
Posted by majika2007 over 10 years ago
This is the same story throughout the UK BB market, And yes it’s another ploy in my opinion for another Multi-conglomerate company (Time Warner, etc, etc) to generate more cash.
Think of it like this. For all the users who Leech the Bandwidth compared to the users who don't leech their allowable share should be utilized to make-up for the users who do leech instead of forcing "Fair Usage Policies" on members.
Ulimited packages should be UNLIMITED ! regardless of how its dressed up. Exactly the same thing happened to me whilst at my previous ISP Tiscali (AOL Sucks - dosent support NIX !)
Posted by majika2007 over 10 years ago
another thing that winds me right up is that you are paying for the most expensive package for a reason... So you can do as you will with it. Not be censored which is in effect what they are doing !!!
Posted by BigE over 10 years ago
majika2007 why should light users subsidise the heavy users? You should pay for what you download, this is the way the industry is heading , and as a lighter user Im glad that heavy users are being given less options to leach the internet, A so it doesnt affect my speeds, and B so Im not subsidising them
Posted by Simplsi over 10 years ago
BigE, I think you have summed up the view of many AOL users. It has been quite apparent in recent months that people have been joining AOL purely because of the word "unlimited" and expect to download enormous amounts of data on a regular basis.
Posted by majika2007 over 10 years ago
BigE and Simplsi - I agree that heavey usage like 120GB per week is extreem and those users should be shut down period. also I think that you missunderstood the point I was trying to raise. I will try it again by just saying a brief sentance mixed with basic Economics 101
Formular applys to AOL -
X ammount of available B/W per
Y amount of users
= z total potential BW. yes ? Well what Im saying is why does aol need to include a Fair usage policy when it can use the excess potentialy available BW from the light users to provide the say (50GB p/week) heavey users the BW they are paying for?
Posted by majika2007 over 10 years ago
what else are they going to do with the excess Bandwith if nobody is to use it then ? Pocket the cash simple !
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