If you are an average internet user who uses your broadband connection for regular stuff such as emailing, browsing social networking sites, shopping online, and the occasional download of music or video, then you may never have had occasion to be restricted with the Fair Use Policy. However, if your internet usage is particularly high, then you may have suffered due to the Fair Use policy that most internet service providers (ISPs) impose on their customers.
What is a Fair Use Policy?
The Fair Use policy is a type of policy that most ISPs use in order to be fair to all their customers. However, many consumers do believe that such policies are not quite ethical as they place a lot of restrictions on internet users unless they abide by the rules of fair use policies. For example, if you are paying high charges for an unlimited broadband connection, then you very well expect to be able to make unlimited downloads, right? Well, that may not always be possible if your ISP decides to invoke the fair use policy so that they can enhance the experience of the other broadband users.
I am the only person in my house that uses the broadband connection. So which other broadband users are being referred to?
While you may be the only person who uses your unlimited broadband connection in your home, you are most likely to be sharing the broadband with a maximum of 49 other people in your area. This is due to the contention ratio used by most ISPs. Basically the contention ratio is the maximum number of people in your apartment building or on your street who are using the same broadband connection. Most contention ratios are capped at 50:1, which means that 50 customers (including you) are sharing a single broadband line. Hence, at peak download times, 49 people apart from you may be vying for the same speed and bandwidth that you are using.
In such situations, the fair use policy comes into effect. Contrary to what heavy internet users may believe, ISPs do not utilise the fair usage policy to harass them. Instead, the policy is typically used so that the performance of the broadband connection can be the same for all the users. Here are some of the reasons for using such a policy:
- When one or two customers are downloading heavy files, games or videos at peak traffic times, they can slow the connection speed for all the other users who they are sharing the broadband connection with. Therefore, since all the other customers have paid for their broadband connection too, the ISPs do not think that it is fair that their internet experience is suffering due to just one or two other users. Hence they use the Fair Usage policy to try and enhance the user experience for all customers.
- Another reason why ISPs make use of the Fair Usage policy is so that they can avoid complaints from majority of their customers. People who suffer at the hands of heavy internet users generally complain to their ISP’s if their connection is too slow or unusable. Hence, the fair usage policy comes into play as that is one of the easiest ways to ensure that heavy users limit their internet usage.
Actions ISPs can take under Fair Use Policy
There are certain actions that ISP’s are allowed to take under their fair usage policies. Since customers have signed a contract that holds them accountable under such a policy, they do not have much option but to bear the consequences of these actions.
- Throttling: If you are an extremely heavy internet user, especially during peak traffic hours, then your ISP can seriously shape your internet speeds during these periods. Therefore, if you typically enjoy high speeds of about 30 Mbps from your broadband connection, you may be shaped down to less than 1 Mbps during peak hours. While different ISPs have differing definitions of what a heavy internet user is, these are typically users who download movies and games on a regular basis as well as share large files using P2P software.
- Action against consistent heavy users: While most ISPs do not take any action against users who have high internet usage for a few weeks, they will act if your usage is consistently high over a period of few months. Hence, you may be told to reduce your download during the day and may even be told by your ISP not to download anything during peak traffic hours.
- Cancellation: In a worst case scenario, your ISP could cancel your broadband contract if you refuse to comply with the terms of the fair use policy even after repeated requests to do so from your ISP.
In order to avoid these actions due to Fair Use policies, it is best to monitor your internet usage and try to schedule your heavy downloads for non-peak times.