ISP Caps, Fair Usage Polices and Network Performance
Most of the broadband market has stabilised. BT wholesale has now upgraded the majority of exchanges to 21CN. The combination of faster backhauls, more exchanges being de-regulated and the fact that more people now have broadband has ensued in cheaper bandwidth costs for most ISPs.
Whilst some ISP products do still have caps, advertising is now much clearer to the consumer and they can easily see what they are purchasing.
Some ISP's still use traffic shaping, but now its more likely to be used in a positive way to prioritise time critical applications such as VoIP and IPTV. This is unlike days of old whereby it was used to severely throttle P2P and Usenet.
Finally the ASA is also more pro-active when it comes to the use of "Unlimited". So these days if an ISP advertises "Unlimited", then it usually is. Unlimited does not mean that the ISP may not shape or restrict throughput, just no upper restriction on the amount you can download.
Congestion does still occur either on the S-VLANs or ISP's backhaul, but we do have to remember that we are not purchasing leased or dedicated lines. In order to bring cheaper costs, we are sharing bandwidth with other users. There are some ISPs which do contend bandwidth more than others and generally speaking this is where you get what you pay for.
Currently Virgin Media's network is the one that we see most complaints about when it comes to restriction of download speeds.
Below is a list of some ISP's policies that are in place.
This page is based on observations from users from various ISPs. It is intended as a guide as to how ISPs handle their traffic and any FUPs that are in place. Obviously I cannot check all ISPs on a daily basis therefore it is recommended that you also check the individual ISPs FUP policy. If you are aware of any discrepancies please advise me, I also appreciate any genuine feedback from users of their own experiences.
Uploads not included in usage. Large off peak period during which usage is unmetered and not counted in your allowance. (6pm to 8am and all weekend).
"10GB buffer zone" for occasional months with heavier than normal use, without having to pay for extra GBs on some accounts.
Basically only downstream usage during 08:00 -18:00 Mon to Fri is counted towards the cap, and the rest of the time appears to be unrestricted.
into place Feb 2007. More Info. Update Feb 07 - Many users over
the past few weeks have been reporting download speeds in the
region of around 400 kbps - despite them not being heavy users. :/ Update Oct 07 - Traffic Shaping in Operation. Some users reporting torrents limited to 30KB/Sec at all times of the day. Others have reported nil throughput during peak. Update Oct 08 - Situation not changed although it would appear more users are now complaining about peak time speeds. This could depend on location and IPStream or LLU.
Feb 2007 -
but a FUP with little info applies. In the past BT have billed for
excess usage and prev it was 40GB for option
3. Users are also advised to avoid downloading during peak hours.
Testing seems to show speeds of 1.5 - 2Mb on all protocols during peak times regardless or not of FUP being reached . Some users report p2p being slower than this.
Update Nov 07 - Option 3 FUP rumoured to be 40GB when peak time speeds will be reduced. In excess of appx 100GB will result in restricted speeds 24/7.
29.08.07 FUP in place.
No specific details but allowances appear to be very generous. I've yet to see Be actually apply the FUP and to date they are the only ISP that I've seen who haven't as yet invoked their FUP. Many users do successfully manage to download several hundred GB per month.
* Unlimited T+C's
state 4.4.3 if your use of the Service may damage or disrupt the
proper functioning of the Bulldog’s or others’ networks.
yet I haven't seen any evidence of throttling or caps in place on their LLU service, although in the past they let natural contention kick in on their datastream products.
Bulldog phone line needed.
Re Home Offpeak is after 6pm and w/ends only.
Be aware that although the
offpeak may be unlimited on this account they are hardly likely to be offering
true unlimited at a lesser price than the 2GB account!
Oct 07 FUP now specifies 50GB and 60GB of downloads. Uploads would appear not to be counted, although this is not 100% clear.
†Some users report that after testing that uploads aren't included in monthly usage.
*Throttled users report 128kbps speeds.
In the past Demon have let natural contention kick in but all seems ok now the FUP has been clarified.
Traffic shaping / Contention / FUP
I have tried clarifying the FUP
with Eclipse but unfortunately cant report any hard facts, other than the higher priced accounts get preference over the cheaper products when the network is busy. Update Oct 07 - Users are having extreme difficulty with p2p at all times of the day regardless of account type. Update Oct 08 - Evo users reporting 256kb p2p peak, 2Mb-4Mb after midnight. Users on new account seem to fair better.
CAP and ALT
Current w/e status on all protocols
†Additional OffPeak usage (Mon -Thurs 22:00-08:00. Fri 22:00 - Mon 08:00).
*Whilst not advertised there is an ALT in place. Basically which can limit speeds on all protocols down to 2Mbps during the start of the offpeak times. Disconnecting and switching Central Pipes may help. See also the enta NOC tool for expected performance. Update Nov 07- 2Mb speeds on some centrals during NOC period and weekends. Update Oct 08 - Some users report slower speeds, and some centrals are more congested than others. ALT is now 1Mbps. ALT info .
†Off Peak hours 1am to 6am
do not count towards monthly usage on some accounts.
* "Preference interactive traffic at peak times" Reports show that p2p/nntp traffic can vary but would appear to be between 60-100 Kb/Sec during busy periods. Update Feb 08 -Many users are now seeing the effects of the take-over by tiscali. ut throttling on http, but users are complaining of problems with gaming and p2p. Mar 08. Reports of further poor speeds on all protocols.
*reduced to 64kbps or purchase extra GBs
† Surf and Broadband2 - unlimited off peak midnight to 8am which is not counted in usage allowance. Update Feb 08 - Unfortunately it would appear that many users are now seeing the effects of the take-over by tiscali of this once fine ISP
Unsure about throttling on http, but users are complaining of problems with gaming and p2p. Update Oct 08 Reports of slow 100kbps p2p during peak.
FUP in place.
No specific details but they use Be* dslams where allowances appear to be very generous. Be* are about the only UK ISP who doesnt appear to have invoked their FUP on any of their customers.
Max has 30GB FUP and heavy downloading discouraged
during peak. See below
p2p restricted to circa 256 kbps during peak, although this could depend upon area/ LLU
Users in the past have reported being disconnected after 40GB
Update Apr 08. Users reduced to dial up speeds after 40GB
* Max has a FUP + QoS *FUP
is not clear,
There is traffic
shaping in evidence.
Peak time is in the region of 6pm - midnight week, 9am to midnight weekends.
Shaping appears to be very random, sometimes all day, sometimes very little. May depend on location/LLU.
Update Nov - more users would appear to be reporting slow http speeds and p2p also seems to have deteriorated further. Update Apr.. and again :/
† Free offpeak usage on all accounts.(00.00 to 08.00)
Cap and Traffic Shaping in place.
Clearly defined depending on product type. See
TS Calculator .
Amount of throttling depends upon product, some arent restricted whilst the cheapest product is heavily restricted on p2p. Pro has no additional shaping.
* I cant find any mention of a FUP
on the site, but at £24.99 no way can it be true unlimited
- particularly in view that the previous "limited" unlimited
account was £49.99.
See also notes below. Rumours suggest 30GB
Users report average speeds of around 512k or less during evenings on all protocols, although Supernet are supposed to have admitted to traffic shaping.
unlimited but have cut their customers off without warning.
They haven't defined any limits but their T+C's 4.5 state:-" we may change your Transmission
Speed or manage your use of our Broadband Service as we
see fit in the circumstances.
Heavy users are throttled - see below. My own observations are some pretty poor speeds 24/7 - May depend on location/llu.
mention of a cap in the FUP. Rumours are this figure is exceedingly low during peak time hours.
p2p during peak is considered unacceptable - see below. Many users report poor throughput on all protocols. May depend on location/llu. Datastream + IPStream are hardest hit with <400kbps speeds.
There are reports of Newsgroups, p2p being totally blocked during the day. p2p also being managed even offpeak to 25KB/Sec. Reports of slow http dial up speeds, but LLU seemingly is ok for http. Jul 09. FUP states 100GB & Traffic Management Policy
FUP has no clear definition,and depends on which service you are provided via. They likely will be less tolerant on IPStream products than LLU. Their newer LLU exchanges use Sky dslams and therefore the amount you can use before the FUP kicks in depends entirely on how busy your particular exchange is.
True adsl2+ LLU via Easynet exchanges is assumed to be circa 500GB. Unless you are a real heavy then things seem to be ok. Update Nov 08 - IPStream FUP letters sent out to >93GB.
Undisclosed AUP -
Bear in mind previous cost were £14.99 for 3GB and £17.99 for 6GB, which may give
an idea of what is considered acceptable. Update Oct 07 - Many users of the service are reporting some very slow speeds during peak periods. Some of this may be related to the AUP, but others are also affected, it may be location wise, but sometimes disconnecting and attempting to get on another central pipe may help. very slow speeds and high latency reported :/ Nov - Status updated to red since speeds are now extremely poor. :(
Whilst the site is displaying No download limits. - They do indeed have a traffic management policy in place. Peak time management is between 1600-2100. Limits are:
SizeM 500Mb, SizeL 1200MB, SizeXL 3000MB. Speeds will be reduced by 50%, 75%,75% respectively. Other limits also apply during daytime hours.
Additionally many users on the higher speed products appear to be suffering from contention. Obviously this will vary for location.
Hard Cap applies, excess usage charged.
† uploads not included.
FUP = Fair Usage Policy. This is not a hard cap, but may allow the user
some flexibility either by allowing off peak downloading, uploads
not included in figures, or the flexibility to go over these
caps on occasion, or a mix of any or all of these exceptions. Some
FUPs are harsher than others and may in fact be worse than some strict caps. Be wary of "Unlimited" its not true.
QoS = Quality of
Service. (Also know as Packet shaping) This involves prioritising
certain traffic so that services such as http get priority over others.
This may mean that you will see slower download speeds on p2p traffic. Ellacoyas are sophisticated Network switches that are able to identify traffic types.
Throttled = The ISP
"throttles" speeds of identified traffic or heavy users to slower speeds.
Large Downloads = Large files (inc http) circa 0.5Mb. Does not include p2p type protocols, but such things as software updates etc.
Limit Reached = Action taken when CAP or FUP is exceeded. = Throttled speeds. = Pay for more GBs.
Contended = At busy
periods users may see slowdowns of speeds as users "fight"
amongst each other for available bandwidth.
UnManaged Contention - Whilst all ISPs may experience some form of Contention at times, ISPs denoted are those that are perhaps seeing slow downs on all protocols in an uncontrolled way. ie opening up several nntp threads can achieve higher speeds than normal web traffic or to the extent where latency is being affected.
- Traffic is performing as expected within normal boundaries.
- Slow downs are in evidence. This may be due to product design, or uncontrolled.
- Product is not performing as advertised and users may be experiencing severe slow-downs.
Unmanaged Contention -v- QoS?
It depends on your type of usage and what you want from your connection, some people are strongly against QoS saying they wish to decide which protocols are more important, whilst other users would prefer that the ISP prioritises voip, web and gaming over p2p. Having suffered several times through exchange natural contention, its not something that gives a good experience. Pure natural contention results in high latency, packet loss and everything can slow down to very slow speeds as things like p2p take up resources. The above is a simplified explanation. Personally I prefer some form of QoS so that if things are busy then only p2p etc suffers, rather than everything - as long as the ISP doesn't abuse QoS.
Limited "Unlimited" ISPs -
In the past I've always maintained a list of ISPs which advertise "Unlimited" whilst in fact actually having some form of hidden caps or FUP in place. Over the past year this list has grown and therefore the information has been moved to a dedicated "Unlimited ISPs" page.
Page last updated Jul 2009
Final Update 03/09/2016