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UPD2 BE Broadband Face Unlimited Questions After User Cut Off for Overuse

Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2013 (8:59 am) - Score 3,933

Internet provider BE Broadband (O2 UK) could face questions from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after a customer on their “unlimited” use package(s) was, without warning, allegedly given just 14 days to find a new provider after the ISP terminated their service due to “excessive” usage.

The ISP has been issuing warning letters about excessive usage to some customers on already congested telephone exchanges since early January 2013, although none of the initial notices have contained any specific threat of disconnection.

Similarly BE Broadband has so far refused to clarify what level of usage customers should keep within in order to avoid disconnection from the providers “unlimited” service, which is understood to have frustrated some customers. A copy of the initial warning, courtesy of the BE Usergroup, has been posted below.

be broadband usage warning

BE does apply a “very” Fair Usage Policy (FUP) to its unlimited packages, which vaguely warns customers not to make “excessive use of, or placing unusual burdens on, the networkbut does not specifically threaten disconnection and adds that “In extreme circumstances, should the levels of activity not immediately decrease after the warning, Be may terminate that member’s services“.

Never the less BE now appears to be taking more direct action against one of its customers on the Hackney (LNHAC) telephone exchange, which is believed to be a congested location. The customer in question admits that they “used a lot of bandwidth“, probably over 1TB (TeraByte) of data during January 2013, but also claims that they never received any prior warning and weren’t given a chance to change their usage.

BE’s Termination Letter

Hello *********,

Your broadband usage is excessively high and this is having a detrimental effect on the service other members receive. This is covered in our excessive usage policy. As a result we’ll be stopping your service in 14 days. This will allow you time to find an alternative supplier.

During the next 14 days we will monitor usage and if it remains at an exceptionally high I will have to suspend service with immediate effect.

I’m sorry I have had to do this, but we have a duty to make sure all our members get the same quality of service. If you need your MAC code to move service let me know today, otherwise we will just disconnect as normal.

Kind Regards

BE also called the customer directly to explain the issue. “After 7 years of being a loyal customer I would have thought I would at least get a warning or something. I wasnt given a chance to amend my usage. The person was very polite at least and offered to help me find another ISP,” said the user.

It’s important to remember that home broadband capacity is a shared “Best Efforts” service, unless you pay extra for a business connection with dedicated supply and low contention, which means that ISPs offering “unlimited” services have to be very careful about how it’s managed and promoted. Using over 1000GB in a single month is perhaps excessive for a home service and that’s even without using a modern superfast broadband connection.

However the ASA’s related rules warn that “unlimited” or similar terminology can only be used (advertised) if the customer incurs no additional charge or suspension of service as a consequence of exceeding a usage threshold associated with a Fair Usage Policy (FUP), Traffic Management or similar policy (here). It remains to be seen whether or not BE will now be forced to adjust the language of its FUP.

On Monday ISPreview.co.uk revealed that 89% of respondents to our most recent poll still felt that big broadband ISPs were continuing to mislead consumers with their advertising practices (here). We are currently seeking clarification from BE.

UPDATE 1:02pm

BE has finally confirmed the move and furnished us with the following statement.

Chris Stening, Managing Director of BE Unlimited, said:

Our services are unlimited and genuine consumers are free to download as much as they wish. Our Fair Usage Policy is designed to protect the experience of others and avoid use that is contrary to our terms and conditions and it is therefore handled on an individual basis.”

We note they’re still calling the ISP “BE Unlimited“.

UPDATE 23rd Feb 2013

At least one of O2’s Home Broadband customers has now also been threatened with disconnection, although unlike the above BE user they haven’t yet been told to leave. Meanwhile even one of O2Wholeale’s ISP clients, AAISP, has criticised the problems with network congestion (here).

Clearly O2 Wholesale would rather kick off a few super-heavy users than annoy their other ISP clients by making them wait for new capacity to be added at related exchanges.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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