UK ISPs – Monthly Usage Limits – silly silly silly!

Following yet another outage on my ADSL service from Nildram Pipex Tiscali Opal TalkTalk Business, I decided to take a look around and see what else is on offer. I do this quite frequently and with some enthusiasm. Then I give up.

The problem is usage based charging. At the moment, probably due to my contract length, I have an unlimited usage policy. Whilst expensive, this suits me very nicely because I get a totally predictable bill every month. If I was going to change ISP, my preference would be Andrews & Arnold Ltd who have a well earned reputation as the geeks ISP of choice. Unfortunately they will base my monthly charge on the volume downloaded. With two teenage boys in the house, sharing a single broadband connection this is, at best, unpredictable and potentially very expensive, should they discover Bit Torrent.

So exactly how difficult is it to blow the usage limits on these contracts? Time for some calculations……

Lets assume for a moment that I have a paltry 1Mb/s connection to the Internet. That’s Bits, not Bytes so lets convert it into Gigabytes per Hour to keep the numbers smallish. So, ((1 x 3600) / 1024) /8 gives me 0.44GB/Hr. Multiply that by the 24 Hours in a day and we get 10.55GB / Day. To put that in perspective, on many UK ISPs I could blow the basic Monthly allowance in a single day with only a 1Mb/s connection! These guys aren’t offering 1Mb/s though, many of them are offering 20Mb/s. If you drove that flat out for a month, you’d be looking for a usage contract of around 6TB per Month.

The largest example Andrews & Arnold Ltd quote is for 70GB/Month (peek time) and 500GB/Month (off-peek). This costs £300.20 per Month. So do some more maths and it’s reasonable to conclude that driving a 20Mb/s connection flat-out for a month would cost me about £4,600. To put this in perspective, I have a rented server in a German Data Centre with a 1Gb/s Internet connection and unlimited (fair) usage. It costs me £45 per Month.

I don’t want this to appear as a criticism of A&A, they are the ISP I have the greatest respect for in the UK. The fact that they’re delivering IPv6 is a fine example of their attitude, and I like it. A lot. I’m just trying to get my head around how these usage restrictions can possibly be realistic when connection speeds are going up and we’re looking at new technologies like Fibre To The Home. What’s the point of all that bandwidth if you can’t use it? It’s worse than that, you can use it and unless you’re highly technical and geeky, you can’t regulate it. Better keep the kids under lock and key unless you plan to take out a second mortgage to pay your ISP’s monthly bill.

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