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Broadband Fair Usage Policy - how it works

Most internet service provider (ISPs) are striving to provide customers with unlimited broadband packages these days. Unfortunately, not all of these packages - often advertised as being unlimited - offer a truly unlimited download service. Although this may seem slightly misleading at first, there are performance reasons for imposing restrictions on download limits.

What is a fair usage policy?

Even if you have an unlimited broadband package, it’s likely there’ll be a Fair Usage Policy built into your contract. This means your usage will be capped at a certain level in order to make sure there’s enough bandwidth to meet the needs of all of the network’s users.

Shared broadband usage

The internet connection to your home is not solely used for just your home. It can be responsible for transmitting data for many different people per broadband line.

The total number of users who share a broadband connection is known as the “contention ratio” and if one user is constantly streaming videos, they will be slowing down the connection of all the other users.

The fair usage policy, tries to limit the impact one user can have on the rest of the group. This should make sure that all users can have a fair share of the connection during peak hours. ISPs will group like-minded users together such as lite users with other lite users and high-volume users with other high-volume users.

The contention ratio was created to try to maintain the highest possible quality of broadband connection for the highest number of users. However, even if you think you will get lightning fast internet speeds with unlimited downloads, you may be grouped with heavy users and receive a slow connection during peak hours, something you may have not foreseen before choosing your broadband package.

This can turn out to be major source of annoyance and frustration to subscribers who have specifically purchased high-end broadband packages, but cannot receive the download speeds they expect.

Before purchasing a broadband deal, its advisable to ask your ISP about your contention ratio. You should try and find out how they classify your own usage and if their broadband packages are indeed, subject to any fair usage policies when it comes to download limits.

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Excessive users

Users who regularly use file sharing programs or use Peer-to-Peer networks are going to be classed as heavy or excessive users. Constantly downloading movies, programs and music to computers and smartphones can use excessive bandwidth. As a result these types of broadband users can slow down the connection for other people if they share the same line.

When your ISP has noticed that you are consistently trying to download vast amounts of data, normally over a few months, they will inform you of your usage. They normally send you an email or a letter asking you to check their fair usage policy and providing tips on how to lower your usage. They will suggest you do not download movies or music at peak times.

How much broadband usage is fair?

Regularly surfing the web, checking your emails, browsing social media sites, occasionally streaming, and sometimes downloading a film is considered normal internet usage. This is what the ISP expects you to do. If you download a movie every day and stream music or video non-stop, you will be classified as being a heavy user. In this case it would be worth noting your usage and avoid downloading at peak times.

If you receive a fair usage warning letter from your ISP, you should pay attention to it. Follow their advice and reduce your usage. Failure to do so could result in your speeds being dramatically reduced and could possibly lead to the ISP disconnecting your internet service in some cases.