Internet: The Bandwith Bungle

It seems that my folk’s broadband package isn’t quite up to my normal level of usage. They are with Eclipse Internet on one of their older “unlimited” usage packages. Of course, like almost all “unlimited” usage packages this one has a nebulous fair usage policy attached. Really the service is only unlimited outside peak hours. In the case of my folk’s connection that’s daily between 9AM and 11PM.

They got a warning the other day saying that we were  in danger of exceeding her provider’s Fair Usage Policy:

We’ve noticed that your current rate of download during peak hours [9am – 11pm] is close to exceeding our Fair Usage Policy (FUP).

Your usage status has been changed from Green to Amber within the Control Panel of My Eclipse to remind you of this usage warning.

Now I’ll shoulder most of the blame for going over whatever arbitary limits Eclipse have set. I have Steam installed on this computer, and I had installed Team Fortress 2 on it, but hadn’t actually fired it up in months. The instant I connected Steam it started updating about a year’s worth of major updates for TF2. Seeing as that happens all the time when I’m on my own connection I never actually thought that much about it. The thing got on with the updating business and I got on with mooching in the Steam Christmas Sale. All in I don’t think the TF2 download could have exceed more than a gigabyte or two of downloading.

I stopped a few other games that were in the process of updating and deleted them off the system, but I guess the damage was already done.  They got another email warning them that their downloads had continued to exceed the Fair Usage Policy and the service had been moved to “Red” on the control panel. In practice this means that the connection has been throttled down from 8Mbps to somewhere around 256kbps. Which, according to Eclipse’s blurb, should be more than enough to browse the web and send emails. Sadly, as this is not 1998, the internet needs a bit more than that nowadays.

I wish that ISPs would put some kind of black and white idea of what they expect to be Fair Usage in their contracts and on their websites. With my own service I get 40GB a month peak download, and 350GB a month off peak. I’ve never managed to exceed that yet, but I clearly know how much I can or can’t download in a month. These nebulous Fair Usage Policies are far too open and arbitrary. We’ve no idea if it was set to certain specific download limit in an entire month, or if it’s done by the amount done within a certain rolling time frame. It could even be done by session for all we know.

Still, sure we went over the usage policy, but a bit more transparency wouldn’t hurt anyone would it?

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