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By: MarkJ - 9 July, 2010 (6:02 AM)
o2 uk unlimited broadbandIt's been reported that broadband ISP O2 UK is to tweak the Fair Usage Policy (FUP) of its BT-based Home Access package. New customers will now face a soft download restriction of just 20GB (GigaBytes) per month on a supposedly "unlimited" service (currently 40GB). Customers who exceed 20GB on a regular basis could face disconnection. The change will take effect from next Wednesday (14th July).

The move, spotted by BroadbandChoices, follows a recent spate of confusion after O2 was accused of misleading customers over their "unlimited downloads" flexibility (original news). O2 set a FUP of 40GB but then informed customers to aim for just 10GB per month.

O2 also has a policy of warning those who exceed 40GB on a regular basis to "moderate their use" and those who do not comply have been known to face disconnection. However an "unlimited downloads" service is NOT UNLIMITED if you are disconnected for downloading too much. Most rivals would merely throttle the customers speed instead.

Suffice to say that, since the original article over one month ago, O2 has made some changes to their website. The Home Access package is now only displayed when necessary after an availability check, though the Support Section remark about aiming to use "10GB" remains. O2 also put out a new statement just over two weeks ago.

Felix Geyr, Head of O2 Home Broadband, said on 22nd June 2010:

"At O2, we’ve listened to customer feedback on the terms of our Fair Use Policy and recognise we need to be clearer about what we consider excessive use to be.

When we launched our Home Broadband Access service a couple of years ago, we sold our package as unlimited, subject to fair usage. Since then, usage has risen significantly and there are now a small number of customers that do affect the experience of others.

Because of this, and the fact that we want to be open and honest, we are changing our package and setting a fair usage policy at 40GB. This is over 10 times an average customer’s usage and for 90% of all Access customers it will mean no change to how they use the service. It will, however, mean a better experience for all as very high users will be reducing their usage. For customers who go over the 40GB limit, we will contact them and discuss ways to moderate their use.

We are continuing to invest in further improving the experience of our Access service and recently boosted the capacity on the service by a further 20%. In addition, this year we plan to unbundle 43 more exchanges, expanding our LLU network to cover an even bigger proportion of the UK population and allowing us to move Access customers over onto our own network enabling us to offer both faster speeds and reduced prices."

However, if O2 really wants to be "open and honest" with customers, then we would suggest they make the FUP policy restrictions for Home Access available on the product detail page. As we look at it now they still advertise "unlimited downloads" and only say a "Fair usage policy applies" in the tiny small print, which isn't linked to the policy.

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is currently reviewing the situation for all ISPs and Ofcom is also investigating ways to make Traffic Management measures, and by association Fair Usage Policies (FUP), clearer for customers. Hopefully this will bring an end to misleading marketing practices.

It is important to say that O2 are an otherwise excellent ISP with a strong reputation and generally high quality of service. The Home Access package is ONLY offered to customers who cannot receive the operators cheaper, better performing and more flexible unbundled ( LLU ) Standard, Premium or Pro broadband packages. The LLU packages are usually top notch.
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