Study the Small Print

It’s important that you understand when you come to your journey to find your home broadband service provider that advertising is not as transparent as in many other industries.

This article will consider the different areas that you have to pay attention to when it comes to choosing broadband, including Fair Usage policies and traffic management policies of the Internet service providers. We’ll start off by looking at advertising in the broadband industry in general.

Advertising in the Broadband Industry

There are very few providers that are open and honest in their advertising policies. From Virgin Broadband to Tesco Broadband, there are inconsistencies between the headline rates advertised in terms of download speeds, upload speeds, allowances and prices, and the actual received package. The situation has improved in terms of advertised download speeds. Download speeds are the speeds at which we can browse data, receive emails, and do anything downstream on our Internet connection. Upload speeds are when we are sending data such as emails, files, pictures, and so forth.

It used to be the case, just a short time ago, that the download speeds that we saw advertised on websites, on the TV, and in magazines were only attainable by a tiny fraction of the actual consumer base of the Internet service provider. They didn’t have stringent rules they had to follow in their advertising of top speeds.

Nowadays, the up-to speeds are those attainable by 10 percent of the consumers with the Internet service provider. This, in essence, means that up to 90 percent of the Internet users cannot receive the speeds advertised. In some cases, the average speeds are much lower, so much so that on a 16MBPS connection, the average speeds are 8 to 10MBPS. It’s important to understand this when you begin your journey into broadband.

Fair Usage Policies

Most providers have a fair usage policy, which dictate the amount of data that you can consume in a daily, weekly, or monthly period. For example, Virgin Broadband has very stringent procedures, whereby they will limit the speed that you can achieve if you consume too much data, too quickly, too often. Their Fair Usage policy is clearly spelled out on their website, and to be honest, it doesn’t seem very fair. When it comes to unlimited broadband, we expect to be able to do whatever we want whenever we want to do it. But the reality is that providers oversell and under-deliver in many cases.

If you’re considering unlimited broadband, then make sure you do read the Fair Usage policies. Some of the providers that are fairest in their policies, or don’t have policies at all, include BT on some of their packages, Sky Broadband, BE Broadband, and now Virgin Broadband on their most expensive broadband package.

Virgin Broadband – Fairest When You Pay More

With Virgin Broadband, you can now get truly unlimited broadband on their most expensive package. On the lower level packages, you will have to put up with restrictions that can hamper your broadband experience, but if you pay for the top package, you will get prioritized traffic and therefore a better experience.

Traffic Management

Traffic management involves the shaping of Internet consumer usage in order to ensure a decent level of service for consumers throughout the Internet service provider network. This entails controlling the activities of consumers to ensure that others are not affected by heavy consumption by a few users. Traffic management is particularly seen during peak periods and during these periods all manner of activities can be restricted.

Many providers, such as Virgin Broadband, have a tiered structure that highlights exactly how traffic management is accomplished so that you can see which activities are restricted and when. Many of the providers will restrict peer-to-peer activities as these can be low priority activities that consume an awful lot of data. Providers often suggest that Internet consumers do these activities at night, and off-peak, in order to receive the best results.

With prioritization of traffic it tends to be the case of how important the connection is to the activity that dictates the tiered level. For example, sometimes providers will ensure that streaming and VoIP are put on the top of the priority list so that they can be accomplished without hindrance to the consumer. Surfing and email are down the list in most cases and therefore can actually be affected by the prioritization trends that the Internet service providers have. This is because slower connections won’t stop users doing the activities; they will just be accomplished more slowly.

Prioritisation and Business

If you run a business from home and are considering residential broadband for your office, then you should probably think again. There are a number of ways in which business broadband packages are superior to residential broadband packages.

Firstly, you’ll get better upload speeds with broadband packages. Upload speeds tend to be more important to businesses than to consumers as there’s more sending of information and uploading of files. Businesses tend to get prioritized traffic on both the upstream and downstream Internet super highway lanes. Therefore, there is no traffic management and slowing of activities whatever they may be. The customer service on business broadband packages is also superior and so you’ll tend to get a better level of service with less downtime that a residential consumer would receive.

Top Tip for Consumers

There are many resources online that provide a very good overview of the traffic management and Fair Usage policies of different Internet service providers. If you’re considering Virgin Broadband, Sky Broadband, BE Broadband, or even AOL Broadband, it’s well worth checking out the policies before you start shortlisting. Your shortlist should only include providers that are viable options for your home broadband connection and for many an onerous Fair Usage or traffic management policy will completely wipe a provider off their list.

Make Better Use of Your Broadband

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