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In UK, Broadband Limits Confuse Nine In Ten Users

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the ninety-percent-of-everything dept.

The Internet 217

Mark Jackson writes "ISPreview reports that 86% of UK broadband users don't understand the usage limits on their service, and nearly one million have reached or exceeded their ISPs limit in the last year. This is important because 56% of major providers are prepared to disconnect those who 'abuse' the service. However, it also shows how damaging bad marketing can be, with 6.2M people believing they have an 'unlimited' service with no restrictions. The UK Advertising Standards Authority is also blamed for making the problem worse by allowing providers to describe their services as unlimited even if there is a usage cap, as long as it is detailed in the small print. However, consumers are none the wiser with over 10 million broadband customers never reading their usage agreements and a further 1.8M not knowing whether they have read it or not. Unsurprisingly 7.5M do not even know their download limit, which is understandable when so few providers clarify it."

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further evidence (5, Interesting)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497505)

that limited unlimited plans are a bad idea.

Really, just throttle them based on how much theyve used in a given period. everyone wins. consumers keep their service, and providers can cut their bandwidth down a bit.

Re:further evidence (2, Interesting)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497565)

Or you can do what PSU does and occasionally give them courtesy emails explaining the situation (50% bandwidth used, 75% warning, etc.) and if they do happen to go over, punish them with 56k speeds for a bit. That way you don't lose your customer, you protect your precious bandwidth, and maybe you'll prevent a few people from doing it again (or at least educate them on the matter).

Re:further evidence (5, Informative)

dintech (998802) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498117)

That way you don't lose your customer

Take PIPEX as an example. I've been subjected to 56K speeds for exceeding my bandwidth quota of 50Gb per month. I can tell you that if I wasn't on a one-year contract, they would have lost a customer immediately.

Once this go-slow was lifted, I noticed that they were actually throttling my connection even when I'm a long way under my quota. I was getting a perfectly flat 512Kbps instead of the advertised 8Mbps and the 2Mbps I was getting previously. When I called to complain about it, they told me it was contention because of the olympics. When I pointed out that contention would cause variable transfer speeds instead of a flat one, they tried to get me off the phone and told me to write to their head office. I totally hate that company. Avoid.

Re:further evidence (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498279)

You sound like you need some Zen in your life.

Re:further evidence (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498405)

Yeah, I think so too. I was using Be before, maxing out 13Mbps and zero complaints for just £4 a month more. However, I moved 1/2 a mile down the road and unfortunately landed on a non-LLU exchange. I used PIPEX back in the dial-up days and they used to be a good company so it seemed like a safe bet. I really have no idea what happened to them.

Re:further evidence (2, Insightful)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498567)

>>>>>"56% of major providers are prepared to disconnect those who 'abuse' the service."
>
>I've been subjected to 56K speeds for exceeding my bandwidth quota of 50Gb per month. I can tell you that if I wasn't on a one-year contract, they would have lost a customer immediately.
>

This is precisely why I think Internet Companies should provide an option to "buy more time" after you reach your cap. I'm willing to pay more money (say $0.50 per gigabyte over). I am NOT willing to be cut-off just because I accidentally went over my limit.

Re:further evidence (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498665)

I think it should be a choice. When you hit 50GB, or whatever, they limit you to 64k for the rest of the month, *but* you can pay a fiver, and get another 10GB (or whatever). Mucho mas mejor.

Re:further evidence (2, Interesting)

GauteL (29207) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498371)

"When I pointed out that contention would cause variable transfer speeds instead of a flat one, they tried to get me off the phone and told me to write to their head office. I totally hate that company. Avoid."

Look, IANAL, but I would start documenting the bandwidth capping, and then cancel the subscription and any payments to them due to what I would consider to be breach of contract from their point of view.

This sounds like wilful capping of the speed, which can hardly be covered by their standard contract legalese.

Chances are they would not bother taking you to court over ending the contract early.

Re:further evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498635)

"Chances are they would not bother taking you to court over ending the contract early."

But they could destroy his credit for non-payment.

Re:further evidence (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498949)

PIPEX was one of the first ISPs to throttle BitTorrent traffic. I only know this because a small group of friends and I used a share a forum regarding this sort of stuff and a PIPEX user was the first to report. Only encryption helped - thanks to Azureus and their Wiki.

Re:further evidence (0, Offtopic)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498311)

The only reason PSU didn't lose customers is because PSU is a university with a captive audience.

I went to PSU before and after the bandwidth caps and I have hit that limit faster than they could send the emails. It wasn't hard either, just run a few too many updates, or pull in some data from a source that wasn't on Internet2 and you would be over. PSU's problem was a serious lack of enforcement combined with the fact that they used hubs instead of switches for a long period of time. There was already a bandwidth problem before napster even existed, then once it became popular outside of the tech-savy, it crushed the network in less than a few days.

I was desperate to use any other internet system before they switched out those hubs and cracked down on the assholes who were hosting terabytes of content from their dorms.

Sorry for the rant, in short, yes those emails did help. (Still pissed me off going over when I had to pull in video from a distant source though for one of my classes) That exemption for your room wasn't worth filling the paperwork over.

Just the opposite (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497997)

It proves that limited plans are a bad idea. They allow ISPs to charge more for data even as the cost of transmitting that data plummets.

They provide a very 2002 view of the internet and the way that it's connected.

They allow ISPs effectively to limit new services such as Internet Radio, Streaming video, video rentals, etc. simply for those who do more than look at email and surf the web (which you'd have to effectively retarded to spend $40-50/month for access to a paltry 1-2GB per month; you might as well use dial-up).

They're a bad idea because they allow ISP to delay upgrading their infrastructure.

Rate limits don't lower any price, they simply allow the company to raise prices to those who use more than looking at emails and surfing the net. Much like ISPs used to limit your modem connections to 30-60 hours a month; it's not tenable and sustainable.

Re:further evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498441)

That's like saying "further evidence that living dead are a bad idea" or 'she male'.

We use two different words for a reason.

Do UK ISPs advertise using true total price? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497525)

Do U.K. ISP advertisements include the real total cost of the service?

U.S. ISP and telephone companies are notorious for not including all of their charges in their advertised rates, preferring to split out various fees, taxes, and other costs of doing business. Even VOIP providers regularly charge $5-10/month more than what they advertise.

Re:Do UK ISPs advertise using true total price? (1)

giafly (926567) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497975)

Q: Do U.K. ISP advertisements include the real total cost of the service? A: No. In fact the exact opposite...

confusion marketing
noun
Definition: deliberate confusion of customers: the practice of deliberately making marketing material confusing for customers in order to make comparisons with other similar products impossible

Confusion Marketing Definition [msn.com]

Re:Do UK ISPs advertise using true total price? (1)

HackerBash (1386673) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498565)

AFAIK, advertising regulations require you to quote the entire cost of a service inc. VAT. I recall the airlines got a slap on the wrist for not abiding by this, recently. The regulations are different if you're marketing to businesses, however. For example, most won't include VAT, as it can be claimed back. What companies tend to do, is use buzzwords & disclaimers to mislead you on the service you will actually recieve.

Re:Do UK ISPs advertise using true total price? (1)

HackerBash (1386673) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498669)

Damn HTML formatting.

AFAIK, advertising regulations require you to quote the entire cost of a service inc. VAT.
I recall the airlines got a slap on the wrist for not abiding by this, recently.

The regulations are different if you're marketing to businesses, however. For example, most won't include VAT, as it can be claimed back.

What companies tend to do, is use buzzwords & disclaimers to mislead you on the service you will actually recieve.

Bunch of Tossers (4, Insightful)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497539)

The UK Advertising Standards Authority are a bunch of complete tossers.

They'll stop an Apple ad claiming the iPhone can reach the whole internet, but they let these ISPs advertise unlimited when it is anything but.

Double Standards anyone?

Re:Bunch of Tossers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497795)

Waah waaaa waaaa. Dweebs like you are what bring the country down with your pathetic fanboyism. The ASA responds to consumer complaints you twat.

Re:Bunch of Tossers (1)

gibbsjoh (186795) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497827)

They also pull ads when something like 5 nutters say it's offensive. Case in point: the Pot Noodle "slag" ads (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2220108.stm) Useless shower of bastards.

Re:Bunch of Tossers (2, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498539)

They don't "pull" ads exactly. It's important to bear in mind that the ASA is not a government body and has no official power whatsoever, its decisions being "advice" to the advertisers. The government body, OFCOM, has comparatively lax requirements. However the ASA does have de facto power in that it will advise its members, which control most of the advertising space in the UK, against working with advertisers which ignore its decisions. So it's the advertisers that "pull" the ads, due to self-regulatory pressure.

PS - Link to complaints form (4, Interesting)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497917)

Whenever you see an ad claiming "unlimited" from an ISP you know limits in the small print, i.e. BT, Talk talk, Virgin, Tiscali etc. Send in a complaint.

http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/how_to_complain/complaints_form/ [asa.org.uk]

Re:PS - Link to complaints form (1)

R_Dorothy (1096635) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498259)

Probably not going to work. See my sibling comment [slashdot.org]

Re:PS - Link to complaints form (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498753)

What is the equivalent body in North America? Canada? Would it be the Better Business Bureau?

Re:Bunch of Tossers (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497985)

Their adjudicat... ajudic... their decisions are based on what the public might "reasonably" conclude from the advert, while using their brain. So if while the ad shows the word "unlimited" it says at the bottom "fair use limit 10GB", then it's considered reasonable, because the reader will infer from the contradiction that they are about to be ripped off, and therefore no deception has occurred.

More seriously, if the service is "unlimited" but the fine print makes it clear that traffic management occurs above a preset limit, then the message as a whole is considered to be reasonable and not deceptive. Likewise in the Apple case it was considered that by using "the whole internet" as a selling point, the viewer might assume that the iPhone could do this (the viewer knows that other phones cannot use web plugins), and therefore while the ad was not deceptive in itself, it would nonetheless mislead the viewer.

Re:Bunch of Tossers (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498033)

I'd like to make the obvious observation here that the ASA's adjudications (looked it up) are somewhat subjective, and therefore very prone to being revised if the advertiser argues that they've made incorrect assumptions, in this case assumptions about what the viewer is likely to conclude. This survey is the sort of thing that might force the ASA to make such a reassessment.

Re:Bunch of Tossers (1)

RobDollar (1137885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498029)

I too find this completely bizarre, the ads almost say word for word "Unlimited, but not actually unlimited". We all know it's ridiculous, and obviously no wonder people who go over their alloted bandwidth are confused.

Re:Bunch of Tossers (1)

R_Dorothy (1096635) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498247)

I complained to the ASA about a Vodafone "unlimited access to your email" mobile plan that had "limited to 500MB" in the small print. They said the ad was fine because an unlimited service is allowed to have a fair use policy that includes a limit.

Re:Bunch of Tossers (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498391)

I do love how we are forced to assume the positive statement 'service is unlimited' is a lie, while the negative statment 'limited to xxxMB' is the truth.

I'd rather assume the latter is the lie, and the first is the truth.

Re:Bunch of Tossers (2, Insightful)

Bloodoflethe (1058166) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498875)

I would love to have them in court and ask them

Me: "So, you're telling me that a provider is free to lie to the consumer, provided that the truth is less prominently displayed as well. Tell me, what do you think my name is?"

*Displays name tag with real name written prominently and false name written less prominently. Defendant invariably chooses the less prominently displayed name.*

Me: "Incorrect! I didn't tell you beforehand what the rules were. You just assumed that we were going by the rules by which the advertisers are judged."

Judge: "Is there a point to this?"

Me: "Of course, Your Honor. My point is that this man expects the consumer to make a decision based on a truth and a lie without knowing the rules by which he should be judging the offer. Clearly, he cannot do the same. If I were to have asked him to pay me if he was incorrect, he would have been upset to have lost his money and I don't blame him. It is unfair, just as these ads are unfair to the general populace.

The only confusing thing (5, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497543)

is why are companies allowed to describe something as unlimited when it's limited. If that was changed, there'd be no problem. The ISPs always say `most users....` then I lose attention. If most user don't use 50 gigs, then limit it to 50 gigs.

Re:The only confusing thing (3, Funny)

Barsteward (969998) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497871)

its the truth, Jim but not as we know it.....

Re:The only confusing thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498059)

Sometimes I think marketters exist to abuse the english language. They can have their buzzwords and abuse them as much as they want, but seriously, "unlimited" already has a meaning.

Re:The only confusing thing (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498417)

If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, then why don't you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?

Re:The only confusing thing (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498585)

If most user don't use 50 gigs, then limit it to 50 gigs.

Most users don't use 500 Peta Bytes, so let's put the limit there. Seriously. If they would say that most users do not use 50 gigs, then you can be sure that it is 50%+1 person. That would mean they would be able to screw over 50%-1.

Re:The only confusing thing (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498707)

Most users don't use 500 Peta Bytes, so let's put the limit there.

Actually, that's a pretty nice idea (kinda). ISP's LOVE to claim that they can't REALLY sell "UNLIMITED" bandwidth. And I don't expect them to.

My DSL line is a 3Mbps line. At full saturation for 30 days straight that's rougly 950GB of data. You want to cap me because you can't offer "UNLIMITED!!!!" bandwidth, then fine. I'd be happy with a monthly cap of 950GB. It's not unlimited, and it's what I pay for.

Sure I probably only use about 100GB per month, but that's kind of irrelevant. I'm still paying for the ability to transfer more than that and I would simply like the ability to use what I pay for.

suggestions for worst offenders... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497547)

virgin media, anyone?

Re:suggestions for worst offenders... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497925)

Agreed.

Virgin media is the new AOL. Hard to quit the agreement and stop them billing you. Shitty but hugely popular, pimping your personal data, anti-neutrality.

Basically if Hitler was the CEO of an ISP, it would be virgin.

Re:suggestions for worst offenders... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498471)

Aryans get unlimited bandwidth, non-aryans get bandwidth cap, Juden can only get dial-up and must place jewstar on home page and email sigs.

Heil Hitler!

Re:suggestions for worst offenders... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498659)

The worst offenders are surely ADSL providers, because in my experience, they barely provide anything that could be called a service below the download limit to begin with.

Leave it as it is (4, Interesting)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497567)

10% of the users using 90% of the bandwidth still leaves 10% for Grandpa to check his email and your sister to update her MySpaz.

Why punish those who actually USE what they paid for? I've had the same contract since BlueYonder "real" unlimited connections, and my usage hasn't changed. All that's changed is as soon as ive watched a couple of iPlayer programs, my downstream drops from 250k to 100k. My dad, mum, and brother don't notice, so there's 75% who don't understand and aren't affected. Only we know, and only we use it.

Re:Leave it as it is (4, Insightful)

Shaman (1148) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497627)

Because you never pay for it, the price has a built-in over-subscription requirement. Dedicated bandwidth costs a lot more. Go price a DS-3 and see.

What you're saying is a little like saying you want to use the whole road for yourself at the maximum rate possible. After all, your taxes pay for your access to it.

Re:Leave it as it is (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497861)

That's not what he is saying at all. To use the road example, he is asking to drive on the road with as big as a vehicle as possible as often as he wants. I am not aware of any usage limitations on roads. I've never been told, "sorry, you have driven too much today, go home for a bit".

We know that our precious cable is shared with the neighbours, and we can't exceed the maximum posted speed for our internet connections (or even reach it). Your analogy sucks.

Road taxes and weight limits (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498363)

I am not aware of any usage limitations on roads. I've never been told, "sorry, you have driven too much today, go home for a bit".

For one thing, road use is metered: governments tax road fuels. For another, governments limit vehicle size and weight on public roads.

Re:Leave it as it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497899)

What you're saying is a little like saying you want to use the whole road for yourself at the maximum rate possible. After all, your taxes pay for your access to it.

If the fee is advertised with a promise that I'll have the whole road to myself, why shouldn't I expect to get just that?

I too have had a Blueyonder "unlimited" plan, and my bandwidth usage hasn't changed that much: I've always been a "heavy" user. That's what I pay for and what I expect to get, because that is what they advertise. If I use more bandwidth than they expect then tough: stop advertising your service as "unlimited" and/or increase the price to match reality.

Advertising something, selling it to people and then whining when they actually use it is just pathetic.

P.S: To the OP, you shouldn't be getting throttled for iPlayer: Blueyonder have a peering arrangement with the BBC and the content should be coming straight from the Blueyonder cache.

Re:Leave it as it is (4, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497921)

that's bullshit. the average price of U.S. per Mbps is about 10 times higher than countries like Sweden, Korea, and Japan, and it's still 2-3 times that of most other developed nations [lunchoverip.com] . just because the telecom/ISP monopolies charge extortionate rates for decent quality service doesn't mean that's what it costs to provide.

consumers expect what they paid for--what was advertise by the ISPs. if they'd been honest about the broadband service in the first place, this conflict would not have occurred. trying to shift blame onto consumers and use traffic throttling & package shaping to manipulate demand is counter to good business sense. while we're trying to scapegoat "power users," countries like Japan are upping their infrastructure to meet public demand. that's how technology usually works--you increase supply (speeds, capacity, etc.) to meet public demand. you don't artificially decrease demand to meet the supply.

unlike you, most intelligent internet users don't subscribe to this pay more for less mentality. and if you actually did some research into how other broadband networks/services are run, you'd see how much we're being completely screwed over. Japan's already rolling out 100 Mbps connections to all homes, and many are being offered 1 Gbps for £28($43). meanwhile ISP greed and incompetence is leaving our countries in the dust.

but, hey, let's spend more packet shaping technology analyzing user traffic to increase unnecessary overhead. that's a much better use of resources than actually increasing network speed/capacity and providing better value to customers.

Re:Leave it as it is (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498861)

The U.S. average speed = 4.8 Mbit/s. EU = 5.3. Australia = 1.7. We Americans are no worse-off than our European colleagues, and vastly superior than the Aussies.

Re:Leave it as it is (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498973)

P.S. Approximately 15% of Americans (probably those living in empty Wyoming or Nebraska) are still using phoneline connection (56k or less). The other 85% are using broadband DSL, cable, FiOS, or satellite.

I wonder where the survey puts people like me, who have both broadband and dialup?
Also: I can't connect to both Verizon DSL and Netscape Dialup at the same time.
Is there some way to fix that problem?

Re:Leave it as it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498641)

There's no such thing as a DS-3 here, and 1TiB of backbone bandwidth at the datacenter costs just less than £10 wholesale.

We're all easily paying for the actual internet bandwidth; what isn't able to take it is the cable network, and BT's DSL network, which not only badly needs upgrading, but the 21CN network BT are rolling out is hardly able to take the load either and often performs worse, purely for the sake of moving off ATM to IP transit. Most of the other ISPs are BT resellers.

Even so traffic limits are not too bad as long as they're open about it, which is sort of the point of this study - the mainstream ISPs too often are not.

Re:Leave it as it is (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498937)

Where I am (near Washington, D.C.), it would cost me about $400/month to get dedicated, non-oversubscribed 50Mbps symmetric service.

It's not a true DS3, but fiber to the premises. I don't need that much, so I'm content with 15Mbps symmetric for $140/month with 5 static IPs.

There are still some good ISPs out there, with prices that won't require you to mortgage your home.

Re:Leave it as it is (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497959)

10% of the users using 90% of the bandwidth still leaves 10% for Grandpa to check his email and your sister to update her MySpaz.

This also implies there's nine times as many Grandpas and your sisters than there are of you. And in the modern day, I can assure you the stereotype "not as l33t as me" user does more than just check email and MySpace, they also trawl YouTube for videos, randomly watch Flash junk, download music, etc, etc. And given the usual media-bloated MySpace page, I would say they're requiring a healthy dose of bandwidth, too.

unclefucktags? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497571)

Am I missing something?

Oblig (-1, Redundant)

electricbern (1222632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497583)

In the UK broadband limits confuse YOU!

LOL (0, Flamebait)

MeanSquare (572322) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497593)

a further 1.8M not knowing whether they have read it or not

Hmmm. Not an encouraging indicator of level of reading comprehension among Britons.

Re:LOL (1)

intothemiddle (1142025) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497869)

Knowing if I've read some Terms and Conditions which was well over 3 years ago isn't really indicative of my reading abilities.

I can't explain though, I'm trying to conserve bandwidth.

It's funny how... (3, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497599)

...usage caps were sold as a legit tool for ISPs despite advertising unlimited because these caps affected only a tiny minority of heavy users.

I'm not convinced 1million is a tiny minority. It's about time the ASA actually did some work for once and punished broadband providers for not advertising their caps more obviously. Last time it was brought up they said they didn't need to force them to change their practices for the above mentioned reason that caps were high enough to only effect a very small amount of users.

Even Plus Net which prides itself in being open and which is probably one of the most open out the lot can be quite evil. When I renewed my contract with them for a year I don't recall seeing anywhere (except perhaps in the depths of the contract which I did read but must have overlooked) that by renewing my contract I'd accept a change in the definition of off-peak from midnight to 4pm down to midnight to 8am.

Of course, it wasn't until I hit my 20gb on-peak cap within a couple of weeks that I looked into it and found I'd started being metred during the previously off-peak 8am to 4pm.

Similarly when I stuck with their old package I noticed my speeds dropped below their advertised maximum caps at times also.

If this is the kind of practice arguably the UK's most transparent ISP engages in it's no wonder users are confused about caps. The argument about the validity of ISPs imposing caps is one thing but the fact is that ISPs can't even be honest to their customers either and I'd argue this is the crux of the problem in terms of end user confusion on the issue.

Re:It's funny how... (1)

matt_wilts (249194) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497815)

Which is exactly why I left Plus Net and went to Zen. The moving goalposts on download limits, binary news groups and peak times just got to be a pain. The final straw was when a spammer got hold of their address lists.

Zen tell you what you get (for me, 25Gb a month) and how much you pay if you go over that amount. On the plus side when I moved to Zen my download went from ~1Mbps to ~3Mbps. No idea why Plus Net were capping that.

Re:It's funny how... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498129)

I would be HAPPY to have that chance. Nobody around here gives out that information.

I would also be happy to have metered service. I would pay for what I use.

Re:It's funny how... (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497819)

And probably a good idea for the FCC and USA ISPs to take notice.

Now with that said, WTF is wrong with building out some more bandwidth on the infrastructure side? Is it because they would have trouble monitoring it all if there were more bandwidth? Is it because the **AA's et al would not be able to monitor it all?

Seriously, there is no reason not to build bigger infrastructure. This is simple stupidity on face value. Move some of your infrastructure out toward the edge and your bandwidth increases for end users over all. There has to be political reasons for not building more infrastructure bandwidth. There are no physical or networking reasons for not doing so.

At great cost, we increase the number of lanes on highways, increase the number of cars made, and allow new manufacturers to start up whenever we have capacity problems with other public use infrastructure. What would happen if London were to decree that only 4.5 million people could be in the city at anyone time due to Tube capacity limits? It just doesn't make sense people.

The reason that they can't be honest is that would belie the real reason for not building more capacity. I'm very certain that they really don't want people to know why they don't.

Re:It's funny how... (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498319)

Wow, is that tinfoil hat itchy? The reason for not building more bandwidth is simple: money.

ISPs, like all other businesses, do not exist to serve the customer, they exist to make money for the investors (entities that exist to serve the customer and not investors are charities, not businesses). Serving the customer is one way to achieve that goal. So is reducing cost. If an ISP sees that it's bandwidth capacity is being reached, it has a decision to make: add more capacity (cost) and increase the fees charged to customers, or limit how much capacity a customer can use. If it adds capacity and does not increase the fees, it is losing money, which is not what the investors want. If it adds capacity and increases the fee, it runs the risk that the bulk of it's customer base will leave for a cheaper ISP. Again it is losing money. If it caps the usage for a small percentage of it's users, some of them may leave. When those uses leave, the capacity they were using is available to add even more 'regular' customers, increasing the return to the investors.

In previous discussions it has been argued that today's power users are tomorrows average users. That may well be true. When the average person is using their connection for watching movies, etc they will support a fee increase for the additional capability they get. Until that time, they see no reason to pay more just so someone else can have what they want.

Your comparison to roads is not valid: roads are built with public funds, not private money. Everyone pays for the road through taxes whether they will ever drive on it or not.

Lastly, several cities with capacity problems are limiting how many people are in the city, by using 'congestion pricing' to limit how many people drive in the city.

even if... (3, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497611)

Even if the users knew what their usage limits were, a huge majority still wouldn't have any reasonable sense of what that is. They have a vague idea of what the number means, but most can't even tell you how big a file is even when the number is staring them in the face, let alone when there's a constant stream of data trickling in every time they click a link. And that's not even getting into things like streaming video. The only way these limits will ever work is if the ISP provides some way of monitoring your usage.

Re:even if... (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497911)

I would think almost all ISPs *do* allow you to monitor your usage (I know Telenet in Belgium does), but either nobody bothers with it until they get warning e-mails that they're approaching the limit, or they are too clueless to find the monitor.

Re:even if... (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498039)

I don't think either of my recent ISPs have done (Orange and Sky). Not that they've ever contacted me, even on a 2GB (yes, two gig) cap when I run a downloads website (so I'm uploading and downloading to the server) and a Fedora box (so I can be downloading reasonable size updates at times). Sky are nice enough to say [sky.com] that they'll do the monitoring for me between 5pm and 12am. I've even looked for something in their control panel before but found nothing, which means it'll be my first point I raise if they ever contact me about it.

There are some ISPs that let you see how much you've used in a month, but in the UK they're generally few and far between in my experience.

Re:even if... (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498847)

Some ISPs in the UK quote their speeds in seconds per song. Mine says "2 seconds to download a music track". Funny how one track for me lasts 70 minutes, but I digress.

I think they should quote their download limits in the same way. I know that my limit is 3gb per day (evening) before I get throttled, therefore the ISP should say "You can download 600 songs per day!" or even better "You can download eight TV programmes!" or "...four films..."

But they wouldn't do that now, would they?

I'm on the Extra Large Super-duper ISP package. If others knew about "600 songs per day!" they'd drop to the lowest package in an instant. They'd manage on a "100 songs a day!" limit, I think.

30 SSL connections to Astraweb, 18.5mbit down, g'wan, treat yourself for Christmas.

Truth in Advertising? (2, Insightful)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497637)

Where is it on this earth where governments are going to play their proper role in making sure the playing field is level and participants are not deceived?

Government's roles are to provide rule of law, not bending of laws, & adherence to meanings of words, not redefining them in advertising to suit a malicious manager.

Re:Truth in Advertising? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498427)

Governments generally would like the internet to go away. It transfers far too much power into the hands of the people (and criminals). While they can't ban it outright, they can make it difficult to use and promote an idea of it being socially suspect - ooooh, you download stuff? so are you a paedophile or a pirate?

Allowing ISPs to act arbitrarily and at the same time requiring them to accept ever more onerous responsibilities is a passive-aggressive way of furthering this goal.

Re:Truth in Advertising? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498625)

Well, the government body which oversees communication (including broadcasting and advertising), known as OFCOM, hasn't weighed in yet. The ASA is a self-regulatory group run by advertising agencies. If there's enough pressure for change, OFCOM may step in and lay down the law.

Plus there are no tools (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497641)

to see how much bandwidth you have used. That's probably the most retarded thing. How can they set limits without you being able to see them?!

As others mentioned, I don't know why they don't just cap your speed once you hit a certain threshold of usage. What is the point of disconnecting and kicking off a paying customer? Bad business if you ask me.

I can guess why they do all this though. They don't want you to be able to see the limits because they are afraid people would actually use their allocated bandwidth instead of being scared of some secret value they can't see. This is probably the same reason they don't have automatic speed limiters once you reach a certain usage because then there is no hidden line to cross. Again, they are afraid that people would actually use the bandwidth they paid for.

Re:Plus there are no tools (1)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497929)

> How can they set limits without you being able to see them?!

From my ISP's RSS feed:

``If the same rate of usage continues for 31 days
    then the total for the month will be:

    1.94 GB Download - (Peak: 1.85 GB
                                            Off-Peak: 0.09 GB)

    0.1 GB Upload - (Peak: 0.08 GB
                                      Off-Peak: 0.02 GB)''

The limits are clearly specified in the contracts.

The tools are there.

So where does the problem lie?

``over 10 million broadband customers never reading their FUP''

Aha!

In UK, nine in ten people are fucking stupid. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497715)

We knew this already.

Re:In UK, nine in ten people are fucking stupid. (1)

intothemiddle (1142025) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498351)

That's 9 in 10 people in the World.. or you're just Xenophobic and find it easier to give traits to whole groups than have to consider each person as an individual.

Go for a truly unlimited provider (5, Informative)

shin0r (208259) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497755)

Thanks Slashdot, two chances to plug http://superawesomebroadband.com/ [superaweso...adband.com] in two days.

"Unlimited connections on static IPs. No download or upload limits. No port blocking, no packet shaping, no transparent web caches, no 'fair usage' policy, no logging, no Phorm, no ad-serving, no small print. Rolling 1 month contract. No lock in period. Direct Engineer Support 24 hours a day, every day. Good, not cheap. £60 /month"

Re:Go for a truly unlimited provider (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498167)

If I lived in the UK, you would have just sold me. Throw in a shell account, and I may consider jumping across the pond :)

Re:Go for a truly unlimited provider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498575)

It's three times the price of e.g. BeThere's service -- not worth it IMO.

Re:Go for a truly unlimited provider (2, Informative)

trashbat (976940) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498881)

But check this clause in their cancellation FAQ:

"On the Be unlimited and Be pro packages, you may cancel your service at any time, providing you give us 3 months' notice."

3 months' notice?!

the 1 out of ten that do... (0)

barfy (256323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497901)

are the 24 hour P2P users that are at risk of getting cut off. So it is all good.

The 9 out of 10 have never heard of P2P and aren't at any risk of getting cut off. Can down load all their OSx updates, window's fixes and updates of Firefox. Never a problem. Can download songs from ITunes, apps from the App Store. No Problem.

These limits are only really a problem when you decide that you are going to torrent Linux Distributions 24/7....

And those people are the ones that read their broadband limits.

Re:the 1 out of ten that do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498113)

Theres this thing called Fair Usage Policy you know. In most cases it never states what the limit is, only that they will throttle you when 'other users get affected'. No clarification, no nothing. That's how good our isp's are.
Also, you don't have to use p2p 24/7 to be classed as a heavy user. I like messing with my os's and i quite often download install cd's, packages like the mighty 250mb openoffice sources and other stuff. And no, i can't do this off peak hours, because i never know what i'd like to mess with today.

Re:the 1 out of ten that do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498385)

well be that as it MAY, you won't be able to blame large downloads on illegal P2P in a year or two here, with all the new Legal movie and TV distro services coming out lately.

I'd blame the BBC IPlayer as well. Streaming eats a lot of BW.

Re:the 1 out of ten that do... (1)

barfy (256323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25499001)

Who said anything about illegal P2P. The fact is, that there is a difference between home use, and what is essentially business class UPLOADING. That is the problem with P2P. We are not all supposed to have unlimited Uploading.

Does anyone have any idea how much information PROVIDERS are charged for bandwidth? And why P2P is essentially massive theft of service?

Even IPTV or VOIP doesn't hit the network as hard. P2P just breaks the entire model, for everyone.

No need for asshattery... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497905)

...they can do as one of our ISPs did before we completely rejected the idea of gigabyte limits - full speed until you hit your quota, then drop the speed to 64kpbs (ISDN speed) for the reminder of the month. No abuse or threats of disconnection, you simply can't milk it past the limit and it's enough for people to do basic stuff. Unless they actively call support and ask why the line is slow, you don't have to bother with them. Even the people that are utterly clueless about how much they use or what the limit is probably realize that they just hit it. In our case the quotas were quite well communicated though, our consumer protection agency can get rather nasty otherwise.

UK sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25497913)

I'd rather this wasn't tagged uksucks as not all of it does.

And I'm also getting sick of this site

Re:UK sucks (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498491)

Seconded. I get the feeling that a lot of the USians are getting sick of anti-americanism and (maybe not consciously) trying to find a way to fight back.

Back on topic, there are plenty of good ISPs here that just resell bandwidth packages. Most of them are small enough that the costs of adding extra hardware to keep track of bandwidth use would be a large fraction of their income and so they don't bother. I don't think there is a single large ISP that is worth giving your money to anymore, and even if the advertising standards agency fixed this, there would still be dozens of ways that they attempt to screw you over.

The obligatory Soviet Russia joke (1)

iamapizza (1312801) | more than 5 years ago | (#25497957)

In Soviet Russia, you confuse broadband!

Re:The obligatory Soviet Russia joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498155)

In Soviet Russia, internet hadn't been invented yet!

Re:The obligatory Soviet Russia joke (0, Flamebait)

gak001 (954735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498163)

Wow, you are so incredibly hilarious, I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. Your joke is just so witty and sharp. Perhaps you should quit your day job and pursue a career in stand-up comedy. With any luck, you'll get spotted and signed to SNL and a lucrative movie career soon after. You might eventually lose your touch and fall into relative obscurity, but that's okay, you can laugh all the way to the bank.

Mine is spelt out (1)

xorsyst (1279232) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498021)

I'm with Nildram (owned by Pipex, owned by Tiscali), 'cos it was the only free to setup broadband without a 12 month contract. I get a clearly advertised 25Gb on-peak allowance, which is followed by a downstream throtle to 64k. I get a webpage where I can see my monthly usage (on and off peak), even split by day and up/down stream if I like. I think I'd get an email alert if I was close to using it up too, but I've yet to top 10Gb. I wish all ISPs had to be this transparent about exactly what they're offering. It would make consumer's lives soo much easier.

Re:Mine is spelt out (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498239)

You carry over your unused bandwidth to the next month as well, up to a maximum which I forget. I'm also on Nildram, but I have a business subscription which actually is uncapped (afaict).

'unlimited' (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498063)

Well, I've been on the receiving end of a rather prohibitive bandwidth 'throttle' as 'punishment' for treating our unlimited connection as unlimited. The major problem is it's so hard to do a meaningful comparison, as the different sizes of 'unlimited' vs. how much you're screwed if you hit the limit. We were told we'd be put onto a higher contention during peak times, which ... was irritating, but understandable if their goal was to serve the average consumer.

However what really happened is our 'higher contention' meant our whole netlink was virtually unusuable during that time. Which if you assume their goal is minimizing costs by keeping transit bandwidth down, and thus oppressing their 'high' users, makes a lot of sense.

*shrug*. I can understand the reason for a bandwidth limit, but FUP limiting 'unlimited' services, is just plain fraud. Complaint to the ASA, and get the ad pulled, and maybe we'll start seeing an end to this outright deceit.

Let's get this tested in law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498103)

Someone should test this in law. The headline is "Unlimited" and "blah blah cap blah blah" in the terms and conditions is clearly in disagreement. Under UK consumer law, the terms and conditions can't give away your basic rights, and one of them is to get what you paid for. Unlimited has a clear and unambiguous meaning in plain English. Sue the buggers.

(I have an unlimited allowance...)

UK isn't alone - US has similar problem (1)

gak001 (954735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498119)

This is a problem in the US too. The user agreements are convoluted and there isn't a telecommunications consumers bill of rights, so it's hard to know exactly what you're getting. My brother recently got a Netflix Roku box that lets you stream movies, but the cable company is threatening to charge him as a commercial user because he's been consistently exceeding his allotted bandwidth.

Lets complain to the Advertising Standards Agency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498277)

It takes about 20 seconds to file a complaint here:

http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/how_to_complain/complaints_form/

Let's all do it!

Future state (1)

sc4ry4nt (1331937) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498325)

I often wonder how ISPs will go in future marketing these types of deals... there is increasing pressure on ISPs and internet users to prevent and stop P2P traffic and illegal filesharing respectively. Personally I see little benifit (at this point in time) in paying for a unlimited/high bandwidth connection when it's nearly impossible to find legally (and ethical) available multimedia content. I don't need 24 Mbps unlimited download limits to read the BBC news and check my email, even more so with 3G mobile data... Bring on the internet media revolution.

not confused, just lacking basic information (2, Informative)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498343)

The standard UK package is sold as "unlimited" but with a small asterisk beside that particular weasel-word, which qualifies it as "subject to our acceptable use policy". if you can find the AUP, and understand the mish-mash of jargon and legalese, it will say that it isn't really unlimited at all. But that there's an undisclosed upper limit on the volume you may download. However, the ISPs are too shy to explicitly say what this upper limit is. Further, they give users no way to check what their usage has been (e.g. did you accidentally leave an internet radio-station playing for a week or two?).

Once you transgress this limit - whatever it happens to be, you get a letter (or email) telling you that you've broken the rules and if you do it again, you'll be cut off. However, this is completely arbitrary and un-testable as normal users have no means of challenging the veracity of the claim, nor of knowing in advance what this unspoken limit was.

So confused? yes, but confused that the ISPs are able to get away with such blatant mis-selling and arbitrary and un-appealable activites.

Article title... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25498377)

I think it could be changed to "Everywhere, goddamn everything confuses nine in ten users."

a different solution (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498431)

i think it would be completely fair to simply throttle users a bit - say your first 50gig is at top speed (e.g. 16megabit), the next 50 gig's speed is reduced to, say, 10 megabit.

i think there is a basic logic error here in that the ISPs are using a total gigabyte usage as a metric but bandwidth is a byte per second measurement.

and i agree with the guy above- the tags on the article leave a lot to be desired "comcast & uksucks" are irrelevant

Top 1% (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498503)

I thought caps were only supposed to affect the top 1% of users who abuse the system and destroy its usefulness for the remaining 99% of the good citizens. 1 million people breaking through the cap in a year sounds like 1% for very large values of 1.

Just be honest (1)

iris-n (1276146) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498531)

Here in Brasil, we have some sane regulating agencies, and noone advertises unlimited bandwidth. Mine has a monthly cap of 20 GiB (yes, very little, but I paid less for it, and I can buy additional quotas as needed). We even have companies that let you have low speed at business hours (when bandwidth is expensive) and high speeds at night, when I let my BitTorrent running.

It isn't that hard, you know, charging the real cost instead of punishing the users for using your service in an unprofitable way.

What I can't understand is why the ISPs can't charge per GiB, with low prices when the network is idle, and high prices when it's busy. Like the telcoms do, for, 30 years?

That way they could just expand their infrastructure, like the telcoms do, instead of rationating their service.

Sooo Comcast, how much bandwidth have I used? (1)

British (51765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498581)

I'm curious, with Comcast's 250 Gig monthly cap, surely they have some incredibly convenient & easy way to check on their website my home has used, right? What's the URL by chance?

Now before anyone answers with some bizarre homebrew method for figuring out bw usage:
1) I'm not buying a new router that I could do some sort of firmware upgrade to add a bw monitor. While nice, I'm not going out of my way to do it.
2) I'm using multiple systems at home, so a TSR app won't cut it
3) Comcast won't believe for a second how much some 3rd party bw monitor says I used, no more than my bank will believe I have a xyz dollars in my account because Quicken says so.

Sky Broadband in the UK (1)

pumpkin2146 (317171) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498603)

Note: I work for Sky.

Sky in the UK offer unlimited broadband with no fair use policy, and no traffic shaping on certain conditions.

You *MUST* be a LLU customer. This means you connect directly to Sky owned equipment in your local exchange. We currently have about 70% population LLU coverage, and it is growing slowly (as it just isn't economical to LLU up some of the more remote exchanges). You also *MUST* be paying for MAX, the highest speed and obviously the most expensive product.

Note, if you are NOT an LLU customer, we will still sell you broadband. However it *WILL* come with a FUP, and traffic shaping will be used to enforce that FUP (if you go over your limits that are clearly explained in the offer, we will mess with your connection). This is because out of LLU areas we have to resale a BT wholesale connection (like most ISP's in the UK).

While we had to invest far more in getting this network setup, it now costs us A LOT less per mbit than through BT.

If you don't know if you are on LLU or not, or if you can get LLU or not, samknows.com is an excellent site with information on what products from all providers are available in your area.

Entanet (3, Interesting)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 5 years ago | (#25498943)

When I moved to a new flat last year, I did my research and eventually signed up for one of the Entanet resellers. When I tell people I'm paying £20/month for 30GB peak (8am-10pm weekdays) and 300GB offpeak (all other times, including all weekend) they look at me as if I have a screw loose and invariably ask why I didn't got with Provider X who is half the price and "unlimited".

The problem, I explain, is that every provider I've looked at that offered "unlimited" had a FUP and from a site on the web (which i've sadly lost) I found out that that FUP could be down to as low as 5GB per month.

In the year I've had the broadband (living on my own), I've only managed to get at most 15GB peak and 70GB offpeak in a month. It's true I don't work from home, don't stream music or video during peak hours and download really big files offpeak - but I've not found it to severly impact my browsing abilities. Hell, I'll happily suck down a 500MB update in peak - simply because I have tonnes of it to go around.

Thankfully Entanet offer a nice set of tools to monitor my usage, so if I start to get near their limits (due to changes in the way I use the web) then I'll re-evaluate the options again. It's not like I'm tied in, I only have a months notice period.

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