Fair Usage Policy of ISPs

If you are eager to sign up a cheap broadband deal with unlimited broadband , you should know about the fair usage policy of your ISP and the hidden costs of your package. You may find all the essential details in the website of your provider (and also in this article) and make sure that nothing puts you in embarrassment later.

Our broadband reviews are impartial and helpful in your search for the cheapest yet the best broadband deal.

What is fair usage policy?

Almost all broadband providers in the UK have a set of guidelines called fair usage policy (FUP) regarding the use of bandwidth during peak hours. These guidelines are implemented to control the traffic and to restrict the heavy users from using the excessive bandwidth during peak hours.

What generally happens when a few heavy users go for downloading huge files or using programs like P2P that consume more bandwidth during peak hours is that all connections that share the specific line suffer a dip in speeds. This is because the ADSL lines (which are, in fact, telephone lines) can allow only a limited number of users and specific amount data flow at a specific time. Whether there are more users on the line or someone is milking all the bandwidth that the line is capable of carrying, it is going to affect everyone on the line - even those who may be using relatively small amount of bandwidth.

Whom fair usage policy applies?

Are you a downloader of large files like movies, videos, music and other files during peak hours? Do you play online-games frequently? Are you using P2P sites to transfer large quantity of data? These are typical activities of heavy users, so to speak. So, if you are one of them, you better watch out your usage during peak hours.

An uncapped package will nevertheless have some hidden limits on your usage. Hence, if you have taken up an unlimited package, the first thing you have to find out is what that hidden limit is. It could be 40 GB or 50 GB. If your usage exceeds this limit, your ISP will have to take certain measures called traffic management.

Traffic shaping

Although it appears a bit severe and restrictive, traffic shaping by your ISP aims at providing better quality of service for all customers. So, what do the ISPs do, when heavy users threaten to use most or all the bandwidth?

Generally, ISPs use following measures to control the traffic:

1. Throttling
2. Charging the excess usage during peak hours.
3. Limiting your usage of P2P network.

What is throttling?

If you do not comply with FUP and use high-bandwidth (beyond certain limit) during peak hours despite the warnings from your ISP, your ISP may do the so called 'throttling' or slowing down your connection speed. Both upload and download speed of your connection will be set to lower levels as your ISP decides and will continue for duration as set by the rules of traffic management.

For instance, Virgin Media broadband has recently announced its traffic management policy which will slow down the speed to half when the users breach the usage allowance during peak hours.

The best way to avoid traffic management policy of your ISP is to simply follow the rules of FUP and download the huge files only during off-peak hours.

Will I be charged for extra usage even when I have taken an 'unlimited' package?

The answer is both yes and no. While your 'unlimited' package can allow you to download as much as you can during off-peak hours, it has download limits during peak hours. There are chances that you will be charged for your usage when you go beyond this limit. This way, an unlimited package is not unlimited in real sense.

Why my access to P2P is often targeted by my ISP?

These days more and more people use P2P sites to share lots of files, music, videos etc thus draining of bandwidth of the line at times. If you use P2P sites like Facebook excessively, there are chances that your ISP may restrict your access to P2P sites as a traffic shaping measure.

Putting you on a line with higher contention ratio

This is another method of imposing penalty that your ISP could use, if you persist on heavy usage. Contention ratio refers to the number of users who share the line with you. For better speed and service, it should be minimum.

Remember, moving you to a service with higher contention ratio will automatically slow down your speed, thus restricting your usage.

In certain circumstances, your ISP may cancel your service, if they found other measures did not work.

How to avoid these situations?

Whether you use a capped broadband service or a package with unlimited download limit, it is always a good idea to draw up your estimated usage during a month. As downloading of different files will consume different bandwidth, we have provided broadband bandwidth usage calculator which helps you to plan and monitor your bandwidth usage so that your usage will rarely exceed monthly usage allowance.

If you need to download huge files like movies, music, do it during off-peak hours. This will help you not only to avoid undesirable consequences but will also help others to get better speed.

If your usage needs higher level packages with better download limits, the best way to save the money is to upgrade your current package. Our broadband comparison chart, an exclusive page for heavy users who can find the best broadband deals to suit their needs.