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As many UK residents are probably aware a few weeks ago the government announced in the Digital Britain report that every UK household which currently has broadband will be levied 50p a month tax (£6 per annum). This tax will apparently assist in getting people who live out in the sticks to be supplied with a 2Mb ‘broadband’ pipe to their house.

Now this got me thinking; are we actually as a nation not paying enough for quality broadband? I say this as I regularly hear complaints from friends, relatives and colleagues that their ISP is too slow, disconnects, loses synch … you get the gist. When I question their choice in broadband supplier and package 9 times out of 10 they’ve gone with a dirt cheap £7.99 broadband package purely for the reason of cost. I’ve just checked MSE and one of the cheapest on there at time of writing is 2Mb ADSL product from Sky for £5/month (it’s even free if you sign up to their telephone service!!).

I haven’t got anything against people trying to save money and get a service but I’m a strong believer in “You get what you pay for” – I currently pay just shy of £24 to Cerberus Networks who in return provide the following:

– Upto 24Mb ADSL2+
– 1:1 contention (explained below)
– No download limits
– No traffic management
– No fair usage policies (yes you read right)
– Free WiFi Router / Modem

Ok, I’m tied into 12 month contract initially but if you look at the rest of the market I think it’s a fantastic deal. Unfortunately when people sign up to those other cheap deals they’re generally expecting the quality I described above due to the fact that the market has been massaged in such a way to imply anything over £20 for broadband as being prohibitively expensive to consider for consumer use.

I try to explain to my friends and colleagues (the ones which aren’t nerds!) that in order to provide broadband at such a cheap price there’s lots of corners that the ISP has to cut:

Download Limits:
Usually a limit of how much you can download in each month – These are the most well known of the restrictions and generally well communicated by the ISP.

Fair Usage Policy:
This is basically a download limit in a cloak and sales talk to get around using the word ‘limit’ – An ISP will state that you can download as much as you like as long as you don’t go over x amount of Gb. ISPs also use loose wording such as ‘customers download behaviour must not impact other customers’.

Traffic Management:
Ensuring a quality of service for all customers by limiting the bandwidth available for data hungry connections such as BitTorrent, FTP sessions and other file sharing sessions – Information on this is usually well hidden in the terms & conditions of use.

The amount of people you can theoretically share your bandwidth with. For example on a 8Mb connection with a 1:50 contention you could be sharing that with 50 other people, thus SIGNIFICANTLY slowing your connection down at peak times – Almost always hidden in the small print.

In order for the majority to enjoy broadband to the fullest I think several changes need to be made to the way in which it is advertised. Firstly I think ISP should be more transparent in the manner in which they advertise products & always offer a product which is NOT metered or restricted in any way. Flipping the coin over I also think consumers should be prepared to understand what restrictions are put on their account and why (hopefully this post has helped!). We must also acknowledge that unfortunately … you really do get what you pay for in the land of ‘internet service providings’ 😉

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