Even unlimited broadband has its limits
When Littlewoods use the word guaranteed, its meaning may differ substantially to that recognised by you or I. Similarly, when broadband providers describe a service as unlimited, what they usually mean is unlimited up until you reach a limit that we may or may not have told you.
Rather like a car salesman selling you a motor that can circumnavigate the globe on a single tank of petrol. The difference is, and it's a crucial one, that the salesman would be arrested, and not before you give them a bloody good shoeing.
So it's no surprise that research by uSwitch has found that one million UK consumers have exceeded or come close to exceeding their broadband usage limit. Over half of broadband providers who advertised unlimited services actually capped usage, and only two out of nine bothered to flag up what the limit was. As a result of this blatant deception, 4 out of 5 broadband users don't know that unlimited broadband isn't necessarily anything of the sort.
But what happens if you exceed your quota of bits and bytes? A firm but friendly phonecall from customer services? The lads with hammers arrive at the door at 4 in the morning? Or worse still - disconnection?
Tiscali - advertised as unlimited, has fair usage policy but with unspecified excess, will cut off those deemed heavy usersBe - advertised as unlimited, unspecified excess, will not cut off usersSky - unlimited with no usage barrier or cut off policy for those on its own network. 40GB monthly limit for other customers.Virgin Media - unlimited but traffic of heavy users is "shaped" at busy timesToucan - advertised as unlimited, with unspecified fair usage, will cut customers offBT - advertised as unlimited, unspecified fair usage, will not cut users offAOL - 40Gb limit, will remove users who exceed itPlusnet - 30Gb peak-time limit. Those exceeding their limit will be encouraged to upgradeOrange - advertised as unlimited, unspecified excess, will remove heavy users
It's not so much of a problem at the moment, but as media consumption habits continue to migrate online - online television, downloading movies - it may be that unlimited will have to mean just that. If that happens, you can be sure they'll be a hefty price tag attached.