Broadband bundles are often advertised as offering unlimited usage, which can be a surprisingly loaded and misleading term unless you get under the skin of a particular deal and actually read the small print.
It was decided by the ASA in the UK that broadband ISPs were allowed to advertise services as unlimited even if there were some restrictions, as long as mention was made of this on any promotional material.
This has led to a situation in which truly unlimited broadband is difficult to procure, particularly in the domestic market. However, some providers are finally coming around to the idea that unlimited should actually mean unlimited and eventually customers should see this confusing marketing jargon live up to its promise.
Fair Use Confusion
The limitation typically comes in the form of a fair use policy that generally gives the provider the right to tamper with your connection at any point without prior warning (other than as stipulated in the service agreement).
For a business this can be problematic because it means that you could find your connection speed artificially throttled at certain points. This might compromise productivity and cost your business money, particularly if you rely on web access to carry out most of your daily activities.
ISPs argued for a long time that fair use policies were necessary even on packages advertised as unlimited, because it gave them the ability to make sure that every user was getting an equivalent level of service. But the reality is that some businesses need to consume more bandwidth than others, so forcing everyone to conform to the lowest common denominator was not very helpful.
Artificial speed limiting on certain unlimited packages can come into play during so-called ‘peak periods’, the definition of which varies from one ISP to the next and can stretch all the way from 7am until 11pm, which is hardly ideal for most businesses.
The good news is that the shackles of the fair use policy are slowly falling away as ISPs realise that enterprise customers are not going to put up with connection speeds that do not meet their expectations, particularly if any slowdown is being artificially enforced.
You can find business broadband packages that are truly unlimited and indeed it might well be advisable to seek these out over the alternatives, which almost certainly come with so many caveats that you will find their usefulness limited in practice. Unfortunately, the irony of this is lost on many customers.
But for what reasons should your business actually insist upon broadband that is literally unlimited? In the digital age it is necessary to consider the fact that any restrictions to your network access will only increase over time.
Businesses need super-fast internet connectivity for everything from e-mail, VoIP and video conferencing to cloud computing access.
High-speed web services can also help you to ensure the sustainability and resilience of your business since you can use remote back-up services to store and restore critical data on a regular basis. This would be difficult to achieve using throttled broadband and might leave your company in hot water should internal systems go down and information become irretrievable locally.
Some of the UK’s largest ISPs have already committed to abolishing the fair use agreement on unlimited broadband bundles, so this should become less of an issue in the future.
Of course, businesses cannot afford to be complacent when choosing broadband packages, because it is still vital to check the terms and conditions before they commit. This will make it easy to avoid bundles that seem suitable on the surface, but become far less appealing when you dig a little deeper and ignore the promotional hype.
The author, Jamie Garner, recommends Daisy Group for unlimited business broadband.