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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 17:34 GMT
Ntl clarifies broadband rules
Computer and monitor
Bandwidth hogs are spoiling the broadband party
Ntl has apologised to its UK customers affected by the limitations it has imposed on its broadband service, admitting that the information was poorly communicated.

Over the weekend the cable firm decided to restrict downloads on its fast net service to one gigabyte per day, the equivalent of around 200 music tracks.

Consumers were angry that the service - which was advertised as unlimited access to the net - had been changed.

Ntl has since removed the term "unlimited" from the service and promises to be flexible in its enforcement of the new rules.

Majority unaffected

What you get for your bandwidth
One gigabyte = 100 software programmes
or 200 music tracks
or 10,000 pictures
or 20,000 web pages
"Our objective is only to limit very frequent or persistent heavy network use that can impact other customers," said Managing Director Aizad Hussain in a statement.

"Therefore, we will only contact customers who exceed the daily data limit for three or more days in any consecutive 14-day period," he added.

The firm remains confident that the limitations will only affect a tiny number of its customers, claiming that the average user downloads less than 100 megabytes of data per day.

It said that it was uneconomical to carry on without the changes.

All internet service providers are wrestling with the problem of how to make broadband attractive to customers in terms of price and bandwidth and still make money.

Most are operating on wafer-thin profits already and some analysts think that tiered pricing - charging different amounts depending on how much bandwidth people use - is the only way forward.

Bandwidth hogs

"As more and more people download music and video then ISPs will have to move to this. It makes sense for heavy users to pay more," said Jill Finger, analyst with research firm IDC.

The leading ISPs in Germany and Italy already operate such a policy and some of the cheaper broadband providers in the UK have blocked access to some peer to peer file sharing services.

Such services account for the lion's share of bandwidth use with some experts estimating that up to 60% of an average ISP's traffic is dominated by peer to peer software sharing.

BT Retail's "no frills" broadband product, which offers a basic internet connection without e-mail or other services, also imposes a one gigabyte limitation on users.

"It was clearly stated for anyone signing up for the service," said a spokesman for BT Retail.

"It is the nature of the product as it is designed for people that aren't huge internet users," he added.

Changing habits

In its statement ntl says that it will be exploring ways of offering a tiered priced service in the future.

In the meantime, the firm intends to monitor usage with the view to persuading users to adapt their online behaviour.

"Our aim is not to disturb customers; rather, our goal is to make customers aware so that they may change their usage patterns if possible," said Mr Hussain.

Have your say

Sigh. Up until this point I was relatively happy with my NTL broadband connection. I am particularly annoyed that people are accusing heavy users of 'stealing' bandwidth from other users. That is obviously total rubbish - if a company advertises unlimited access then that is what it should provide.
James Paterson, UK

I have NTL broadband and it is very good value as a combined deal with the telephone. I have no complaints about it at all
Tim Sowter, England

Ntl's actions are clearly aimed at restricting the usage of the geek element - that minority who spend hour after hour online EACH day downloading many gigabytes of data. This is effectively treating the service as a leased line (T1 connection) which it is definitely not. I do however think that this move will unfairly impact some households with multiple users which can easily hit the 1Gb limit over a whole day. I'm also apprehensive about the introduction of broadband metering - this would be a return to the bad old days of dial-up where you were constantly worried about how much time you were spending online. Maybe some form of service banding, or metering above a certain level?
Jonathan H, UK

I think a much better scheme would be to give each user a weekly/monthly quota

Jonathan Roberts, UK
Whilst I am somewhat annoyed at NTL for this change in their policy, I can see their side of the argument. I think a much better scheme would be to give each user a weekly/monthly quota. I would far rather a 20 GB/month limit that a 1GB a day limit. I have in the past downloaded a complete Linux distribution which can be up to 8 Cds. With the NTL's recent restrictions this would have to be downloaded over 8 days.
Jonathan Roberts, UK

NTL customers shouldn't worry too much about being chased if they go over their broadband limits. NTL is unable to get enough people to answer its help-lines let alone find the staff to send out letters to so-called broadband hogs.
Roger, UK

If you need more than 1GB "get a life"?? Computing is my life, it pays the mortgage and is far from being a hobby. I would not be able to download the latest version of the software that I work on in a 'restricted' day, it's currently 1.6GB compressed and growing. I specifically moved to Ntl so that I would be able to download these files faster than my previous provider. If I had foreseen the quota restriction I wouldn't have bothered.
Alan Nolan-Davies, UK

How on Earth does NTL, BT and the rest expect broadband to take off if they keep pulling stunts like this? It's like giving someone a Ferrari and then saying: "Oh, but you can only drive to the bottom of the street in it!" What's the point? I play games on line. That's why I subscribe to the service. If I can't play those games any more then I might as well go back to dial-up because that's all I need to read e-mail. (PS and if I cancel broadband, I'll be sure to drop their cable TV and telephone service too).
Paddy, England

When I returned to the UK at Xmas to visit family, I almost died of boredom, waiting for the terribly slow connections in the UK. It seems to be quite common in the UK for ISP providers to limit the services (or lack thereof) they provide in order to grab more customers than they can actually physically cater for. The 2-hour cut off is a prime example of this. Fortunate for me I live in the Netherlands now, where this kind of absurdity can be avoided. Oh, it is worth noting that 1 gig is not '100 large programs'. 1 gig is more like 1 large program and possibly 2 smaller ones...
Paul Chapman, Netherlands (ex UK)

The bandwidth cap has more to do with NTL trying to limit the amount of traffic they have to pay for. It has little to do with making the service better for users.
Mark, UK

Well, Ntl have not informed me of any change to the policy in writing as they have to under their own terms and conditions. Nor have they apologized. So as it stands I will ignore any proposed limit, because that's all it is until they write and tell me they are changing it. This little episode by Ntl is typical of their shoddy treatment of their customers and I do not expect any improvement soon. It continues to amaze me they are still in business at all.
Robert Hine, UK

They should have solved any technical issues regarding bandwidth before boasting their unlimited access as a selling point

Paul McGrath, UK
I have had broadband from Ntl for four months; I share my connection with 3 other people in my house, so in essence we have 250 Mb each per day, which is nothing. It is very unreasonable of Ntl to suddenly decide to stop their 'unlimited' service as this was the sole reason I went with them. I am now 4 months into a 12 month contract, so I have no way of protesting against these terms as they know I can not switch providers for another 8 months. They should have solved any technical issues regarding bandwidth before boasting their unlimited access as a selling point.
Paul McGrath, UK

While I can understand users being upset by Ntl's move (especially the way they went about it), 1 gigabyte is a huge amount of data. It's difficult to see why anyone would need to regularly exceed this limit. Such users have to remember that they don't exist in a vacuum and that their actions affect other users, and that service providers are not raking in money hand over fist from such services. As a moderate user, I recognise the reasons for the move (although it was badly organised) & would be happy to see tiered pricing introduced.
Thomas L., UK

If the average user only downloads 100mb a day there should be plenty of bandwidth for 1% of users currently using service to the full. 85% of people in a poll said they would take reduce or drop their service due to this cap. Is it worth losing all these customers just to pursue "a tiny minority" NTL?
Steve, UK

The point is, what they did was unfair. They DIDN'T tell any of there customers. They just sneaked it into there User Policy on Friday night.
Andy Snook, United Kingdom

NTL lowered the price of their 1MB service a few months ago, get loads of people on yearly contracts, and then castrate their connections. This has to be a PR nightmare for them now, and they deserve it.
Dale Collis, UK

This is a clear case of 'bait and switch' by NTL. They advertise something as being unlimited, suck loads of people in and then 'switch' it to a limited service. 1Gb is nothing if you want to use broadband for it is supposed to be for. e.g the legal download of video/audio. Just watching the BBC news video casts for 2 hours will make me hit 40% of my daily limit. Broadband is not just about getting web pages faster! It's not bandwidth hogging, it's using the service as it was supposed to, and what people paid for it to do.
NJS, UK

Anyone needing more than one gigabyte per day desperately needs a life!

Andrew Walton, UK
The way the changes have been implemented are irritating - typical BigCo stunt bla, bla - but that said anyone needing more than one gigabyte per day desperately needs a life!
Andrew Walton, UK

This is a reasonable request to expect people to agree with. Ntl's network only has a finite capacity, and in order to protect the majority of their customers [who WILL vote with their wallets if they can't use their service because a small minority are saturating Ntl's connectivity], there's nothing wrong with imposing certain guidelines. And how many of these P2P video downloads are legitimate, anyway?
Steven R C, UK

It doesn't matter how much people are downloading if they signed up for UNLIMITED access in the first place - Ntl surely cannot just remove the word UNLIMITED from news advertising and decrease service levels on existing customers who they attracted under false pretences. Not everybody using over 1Gig a day are downloading software or music - some play games on line, which under these rules they would only be allowed to play for around 5 hours a day.

It is very unfair to call heavy users bandwidth hoggers - they signed up for a service in good faith that it would be delivered and if there are any service issues it should be down to Ntl to increase bandwidth - not reduce potential service levels by an estimated 90%.
Heather, Berks

It's odd that Ntl are imposing the same 1Gb limit to all three tiers of their broadband service. Using their 1Mb 'gold' class broadband, you can download 1Gb in under two and a half hours. Be it large game demos, high quality streaming media (which is, after all, one of the selling points of broadband to begin with) or the many other ways to use the internet, those who pay for the gold standard are being penalised the most.

All in all, it strikes me as a short-term patch to try and cope with Ntl's lack of infrastructure to cope with demand they created in the first place. Can you say 'oversold'?
A Clarke, UK

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