Virgin Media chucks rocks in 'unlimited' debate
From atop a fibre optic tower
Cable incumbent Virgin Media has called on ADSL rivals to stop marketing their services as "unlimited", when fair use policies often mean they aren't.
As exclusive owner and operator of its infrastructure, Virgin is able to guarantee unlimited downloads, but told The Reg ADSL providers shouldn't try to do the same because they have to pay wholesalers for network load.
The firm is the latest to add its voice to pressure on regulators to tighten up the regulations around broadband marketing. A petition on the Downing Street website urges Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to outlaw use of the word "unlimited" unless it is without download limit caveats.
All ISPs are faced with the same problem. Rather than admit they are unable to provide truly unlimited downloads, some choose to impose unspecified monthly usage limits, which are a very crude way of managing the issue. Equally vague fair use policies mean they don't have to give criteria for singling out users, and can still, in the eyes of the ASA, call the products "unlimited".
Virgin is trialling bandwidth throttling in the north west, which it prefers to call traffic management. It would not say when the trial is set to finish, or whether the system would be rolled out nationwide, but said the aim is to rein in very heavy users during peak times. More stable access speeds would then be available to the majority.
Pipex recently angered some of its heaviest users by rolling out a similar policy across its network. Virgin reckons its brand history of being up front about small print would avoid such a confrontation with subscribers. ®
Virgin lies - CHOOSE F2S! :-D
I have looked in the past at Virgin Media for broadband as a cheaper option, and was impressed by their "unlimited" downloads claim (I use a minimum of 50gb p/month, usually closer to 80/90) but felt it would be too good to be true. So, I did a little researching around all of their terms and conditions and other small print thingemies (which isn't easy with Virgin trying to appear all laid back and casual!) and eventually found the 40gb fair usage rule. How is that unlimited? How would a LIMIT, of any size, be it 40 or 1000gb, be considered UNlimited? I'm writing to Ofcom about this as I consider this to be false advertising. And now the fact that they're trying to draw shame to other companies for doing the same as them is unbelievable!
My ISP is Freedom2surf ( www.f2s.com ) and have been for a few years now, and they're great. You pay more, but you get more. No ports blocked, all file-sharing welcome, static IP address, 20 email addresses and 200mb webspace ALL included, and it's £23.99 for 50gb limit or £29.99 for 100gb limit with 8mb download speeds (assuming your connection can handle this, mine can only handle 2) and have NEVER had downtime with them! Highly recommended! (I don't work for them btw, just a very very happy customer)
I'm thinking that Chris is missing a point.
When Telewest supplied my cable broadband there was no 'fair use' clause in the contract for the time that had a service from them. Now I'm getting the same service from Virgin Media and, guess what, a so called 'fair use' clause is in the contract. Now either that got put there prior to the hand-over (at that point in time I didn't have a contract with Telewest) and if it did then, why then? Or, the boys at Virgin put it there (who knows, maybe Blue-eyes penned the parchment himself). Why? Now I have an 'unlimited' cable connection with a so called 'fair use' clause in it and Virgin sales staff muttering 'never invoked'. Mmm... 'Never invoked?. Well why the hell is it there, a desire to waste ink?' I don't think so.
We're on a slippery slope in which companies that supply, even produce, media entertainment are incarnating as ISPs as well. Your ISPs. No kidding, and doing that over a network system that is shaping up to having utility status.
Go figure. They have control of the flow to sell multi-media entertainment to the masses, and internet connections (supplied by them too) governed by so called 'fair use' policies. To invoke the fair use part they elect themselves as a kind of internet connection court and police force. Though who gave them the right and power to do that would make an interesting piece of reading, maybe one of them would like to explain, maybe Ofcom would like to explain. But when would they invoke it? Seems, this has something to do with when the network is being heavily used, or over-subscribed (commercially attractive if you can pull it off), depending on how you figure what they are up to. For what? For serving their entertainment. And now they have their mitts (when they can manage to stop counting the cash coming at them from two directions) on the stop-cocks that turn down (or off) the 'unlimited' internet connection you've paid for from them in the interests of them dinging da' till while they serve up more TV or a bucket of song. Personally, I'd call that outright abuse and we're being lined-up for it right now.
If it keeps going the way it is going at this point in time then it will come to Anti-trust. But by then it might be too late. Too many principles would have been lost over what is or is not acceptable commercial conduct over use of infra-structure and internet connections. I wouldn't trust Blue-eyes, nor any other major commercial player, nor Ofcom, on this one as far as I could throw them.
As best as I can see what is being played out now is manoeuvres holding a long-term view on how commercial interests legitimise their own growing control of internet connections. 'Fair use' and demonising of those who 'infringe' (infringe what - their business plan?) is part and parcel of that - that's why the clause is there. Virgin Media, up front? You *really are* joking.
That's bit rich of Virgin considering that I have received email warning from them about excessive usage on my ADSL, went over 40GB. Oops, do as I say and not as I do springs to my mind.