The profile of Internet use has changed over recent years.  It used to be the case that we primarily used the net for browsing websites, checking e-mail, and generally fairly low bandwidth intensive activity.

Nowadays, with speeds getting faster and faster, more of us are engaging in activities that take a great deal of bandwidth. 

What Activities Consume Bandwidth?

Everything we do on the Internet takes up some bandwidth. However, things such as streaming movies, playing online games, video conferencing, Skype, and downloading large files, are all particularly bandwidth-intensive activities.

For example, streaming a high-definition movie over 2 hours may consume up to 3GB of data allowance at an extremely fast rate.  If many users do this then companies run into extreme network congestion.

Why do Companies Manage Traffic?

Internet service providers manage traffic so that the majority of users gain good performance on their Internet activities.  They may do this in a number of ways.  Essentially it’s like having road traffic management.  For example, gamers and video streamers may be given priority over other types of traffic because they are sensitive to the speed.  They may therefore have preference over certain space in the bandwidth.  This could be compared with buses being given their own lane on the roads during peak times in order to make their journey faster, and everyone else’s just a little bit slower.

Internet service providers may also slow down certain users connections if they have over-used their allowance.  This punishment will encourage people to upgrade to a higher package and provide better performance for other people sharing the same line.

Specialist Packages and Add-ons

People who require significant bandwidth on a long term basis should either look for an unlimited broadband package without a detrimental fair usage policy, or they should look for add-on packages that prioritise the kinds of activities that they’re looking to do.  For example, Plusnet broadband provide a £5 per month add-on that prioritises gaming and VoIP traffic.  Gamers can therefore gain the maximum quality of connection despite their intense usage.

It Happens Whether You Like it or Not

Some companies, whether you like it or not, clearly state in their fair usage policy that they do throttle and shape traffic.  It’s important to consider the fair usage policy and traffic management procedures of the Internet service provider that you’re considering especially if you are a high consumption internet user.

To Avoid and to Choose

The Post Office and Tesco broadband services are very restrictive in their fair usage policies. They are likely to attract users that have lower limits than the companies that market their broadband outside of the “cross-selling retail environment”. Virgin Media have very restrictive limits too, especially considering the speed of their connections. Sky, Eclipse, Plusnet, BE Broadband and BT are very fair, offering truly unlimited allowances on their unlimited connections.