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AntiCap UK Celebrates Anniversary
By: MarkJ - 08 August, 2003 (9:13 AM)

The campaign for unlimited broadband services, AntiCap UK, has celebrated the 6 month anniversary of NTL having introduced the 1GB per day download limit on its broadband cable-modem users:

Thursday 7th August is the 6 month anniversary of ntl having introduced the 1 GB a day download limit on itís cable broadband users. AntiCap UK, the Campaign for Unlimited Use Broadband, takes the opportunity to review some of the facts surrounding The Cap and the effects it may have had on ntlís business.

Following the hush hush amendment of the Acceptable Use Policy, the furore created amongst aggrieved customers swiftly resulted in clarifications by ntl:home. A slight concession was made that occasionally exceeding the cap might be tolerated, and use would be monitored for 60 days before any action was taken. Since this period expired, it appears that no real action has been taken against the many customers that regularly exceed the limit. Indeed AntiCap has yet to hear from a single customer contacted by ntl. On forums we have seen mention that a handful of users may have been contacted, but that their usage was that heavy that they would have exceeded the older policy of ďnot to use the service in a way that affects othersĒ. So why did ntl introduce the cap policy if it was not going to be used?

Ntl have told AntiCap that The Cap policy was a proactive step to address a foreseeable future problem. They also indicated that it is here to stay, and they have considered even more draconian limits, on a sliding scale to proportionately reflect service speeds. Even if not currently enforced, that the policy exists means that ntl can invoke it, at will, at any time they choose. AntiCap considers ntl cannot tolerate the loss of face by admitting The Cap was a mistake not least because it effectively stops ntl from offering any increased speed services in the future.

The Cap appears to be having a detrimental effect on broadband subscription rates and take up. Ntl have been almost desperate to reduce their churn rates. AntiCap has heard from many users who have threatened to cancel only to be made a very good offer of bundled phone service or similar, making the broadband itself, very attractive even if it is capped. Similarly new customers are being enticed by service bundles. Ntl are also heavily promoting broadband, using their own propaganda laden digital TV channels, general TV advertising campaigns, and doorstep leafleting. Despite these efforts the broadband customer base (according to ntlís own figures) from 31 March to 30 April increased by only 30,100 users. Compare this to the average monthly subscription increase over the previous 6 months of over 45,000. Meanwhile ntl is in danger of being left behind by the ADSL industry which is now frequently offering faster speed, unlimited use services, or cheaper prices. Has the bubble burst for ntl?

Ntlís own advertising is now frequently contradicting The Cap policy text in the Acceptable Use Policy. For example the explanatory guidance says 1 GB of data equates to around 100 large files. The propaganda trailers on the Buy Ntl TV channel have during July referred to the speed of downloading a large file of 25 or even 40MB. Something does not compute. Clearly the policy, which was flawed at itís inception is now outdated by ntlís own admission.

The concern about The Cap has not gone away. Nearly 10,000 people signed the online petition against The Cap on the Petitions Online website. Discussion forums on ntlís own customer website ntlworld.com, and rival consumer sites regularly raise topics of The Cap. It's no wonder that no other major UK broadband ISP has followed ntlís ill thought out stance. As awareness of the potential uses of broadband increases The Cap will be seen by an increasing number of users for what it is; a handicap or barrier to their use.

Meanwhile, AntiCap commends the vast majority of enlightened UK ISPs for not following ntlís lead. Perhaps some of these ISP's would wish to develop connection and service packages to attract the disillusioned ntl customer where there is a large market waiting to be tapped?

So what happens next? Ntl should admit they were wrong and drop The Cap. If they do not, they will continue to attract criticism (but thatís water off a duckís back), and find themselves ever more sidelined. If ntl feel that some form of limit is justified, which AntiCap of course does not, it should be applied realistically in proportion to service speeds, enabling a realistic heavy use to be made. Of course AntiCap will be watching for any developments.


It's certainly interesting to note how, despite the initial fear expressed by industry officials, most UK ISPs have not followed NTLs lead.


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