GUIDE How to Choose a Broadband Internet Provider - Page 5 - UK ISPreview
GUIDE How to Choose a Broadband Internet Provider
By: Mark Jackson - September 5th, 2011 : Page 5 -of- 8
"The best ISPs are those that ensure clear and detailed FUP limits, while the worst will make their policies difficult to find or extremely vague"

hidden broadband isp use charges and restrictions
Hidden Usage Restrictions and Charges

At first glance many ISPs can initially appear to be very attractive, complete with offers of "unlimited" downloads, superfast speeds and extremely low prices. But beware the devil in the detail. Broadband providers often like nothing better than to hide their dirty little secrets, such as restrictive usage policies and additional service fees, away in the small print. We've listed some of the most common things to look out for below.

Fair Usage (FUP) and Acceptable Use (AUP) Policies

The majority of ISPs will, regardless of whether they claim to offer "unlimited" style downloads/usage or not, often hide an FUP or AUP away in the small print that can conceal a multitude of sins behind layers of vague language and or overly complicated jargon. These should be regarded as additional Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) and will usually make reference to restrictions on your internet usage.

Common examples include Traffic Management, where your connection to certain services (e.g. video streaming, skype, p2p etc.) might be throttled/slowed at certain times of the day, and or specific usage caps, where your ISP might suggest that the service should not be used to download more than a certain level in any given month and doing so repeatedly could attract additional restrictions, costs or possibly even disconnection.

FUP Quote from TalkTalk's Unlimited Plus Package (August 2011)

"If a customer’s usage is continually excessive, unfair, affects other users enjoyment of our broadband service, or is not consistent with the usage we would typically expect on that customers current package, we reserve the right to upgrade customers to a package more suited for their usage. In extreme cases we may suspend or terminate the customers ability to access TalkTalk’s broadband service."

Consumers should however remember that, as stated before, broadband is a shared "Best Efforts" service and as a result most big ISPs do require some degree of network management in order to prevent a minority of heavy users from ruining the service for everybody else.

The best ISPs are those that ensure clear and detailed FUP limits, while the worst will make their policies difficult to find or extremely vague. A few have even scrapped their FUP's and simply hidden their network management details away, which is unhelpful and highly misleading. Thankfully ISPs are working on a new voluntary code of practice to tackle this and the UK Advertising Standards Authority is also attempting to tighten its rules. We'll update this article as and when all of that happens.

Further Details:
* Uncovering ISP Fair Usage Policies and Traffic Shaping

* ASA ISP Advertising Proposals

* Voluntary ISP Traffic Management Code Proposals

Additional Charges / Costs

Under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations Act (1999) all UK broadband ISPs are required to be clear, fair and up front with any extra charges they may levy against a customer. Unfortunately many providers interpret this to mean that they can still hide extra charges or penalty fees away in the small print (Terms and Conditions). Here are a few very common examples.

1. Choosing not to pay by direct-debit could attract an extra monthly charge of £1-£2 on your bill.

2. Requesting a paper/itemised bill could cost up to £3 extra per month, although Ofcom recommends no more than £1.50.

3. Premium telephone support lines are often used to handle technical problems, which in some rare cases can cost up to £1 per minute for a call. You can sometimes claim the costs for this back (e.g. if the ISP puts you on hold for an extended period).

Further Details:
* Exposing Hidden and Confusing UK Broadband ISP Charges
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