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UK broadband users follow ‘communist doctrine’

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UK broadband users are following "communist doctrine" over fast Net access, according to a top exec at networking equipment vendor Juniper Networks.

In a statement supporting NTL's decision to cap its users, Juniper marketing director Richard Brandon claims ISPs the world over must be "thanking NTL for taking a stand against broadband 'democracy'".

He reckons ISPs must move away from the "communist doctrine" that means that users get the same capacity irrespective of the level of service they demand. Instead, he maintains that pay-as-you-go Net access is the way forward.

Here's what he has to say:

What NTL is doing makes a lot of sense. They are putting a cap on user capacity rather than limiting it. Like the mobile phone networks, broadband is a shared medium, but instead of being charged for what they use, customers pay a flat monthly fee irrespective of the broadband capacity (say 1Mb/s) they use. The result is that 20 per cent of a broadband network's subscribers are typically using 50 per cent of the network's valuable capacity without paying anything extra for the privilege. Typically, these are business users working from home and taking advantage of a consumer service.

It is almost as if the UK's broadband providers are following the communist doctrine that assumes all members receive the same regardless of what they contribute. This might have worked when the Internet was first introduced into the mainstream - and it was seen to be everyone's ' right ' to have access to it - but this sort of 'broadband communism' is uneconomical for the carrier and unfair to most of the customers.

When you consider how expensive broadband networks are to run, it's incredible that service providers allow these costs to be consumed by a tiny few for so long and it is inevitable that the ISP industry will move to a tariff structure that depends on usage. Flat-rate, always-on access is not the same as using a constant amount of network resources. These depend on how much actual data is transferred across each connection. For many average-users the utilisation of their connection is light, yet they are penalised by having to subsidise the heavy users. An easier way to picture this is imagining your local power company offering always-on electricity at a flat monthly rate; some users would subsidise others, overall usage would increase, energy would be squandered and it would be an economic disaster for the power provider.

It is time for service providers, such as NTL to emerge from their slumber. In Scandinavia, several ISPs including Norway's Telenor, have already put in place a threshold for heavy users. Once users step over it, they start paying more. The result is far superior Average Revenue Per User figures for the operator and better access speeds and superior new pay-per-use services for the customer. Different packages - with the requisite pricing structures - will start to emerge for game enthusiasts, music lovers and so on. A stand has been made and pay-for-what-you-use broadband is now on the agenda for the UK.

Separately, more than 860 people have signed a
petition
calling for NTL to lift the 1Gig download limit on its broadband service. The petition describes NTL's move as "unfair". ®

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