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back to article BSkyB-owned BE slams into traffic pile-up over 'unlimited' broadband lie

Telco BE - now owned by BSkyB - has been admonished by Blighty's ad watchdog for misleading its customers with unsubstantiated claims about its broadband. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld gripes from three complainants who challenged the ISP's claims that it offered "unlimited usage" to customers - despite having …

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Headmaster

Just a thought

In the past, we have seen some items on the box where programme makers have had to apologise for mistakes made during a previous edition. (Generally news, documentary types)

I wonder if it would make a difference if the offending company had to produce a new item of say 5 - 10 seconds to apologise for their previous misleading advert and have it attached to any new adverts for a period of time as long as the original advert had been run (e.g. if the previous ad campaign was for 3 months, they would have to add the apology to any new ads for a 3 month period)

Almost certainly never happen; but I bet it would make the ad producers think about getting their house in order.

Whacko!

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LPF
Paris Hilton

Come on 150GB a month

that's a lot of pron :S

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Come on 150GB a month

150GB does seem a huge amount, even when I ran through Breaking Bad off Netflix/Xbox and Afro Samurai I was topping out at my then monthly limit of 40GB. Ironically since Breaking Bad finished, I cancelled my Netflix and BT upgraded me to unlimited and now I am lucky if I hit 30GB a month. Is there enough time in a month to watch 150GB of movies or do people just download stuff because they can?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Come on 150GB a month

It's about a third of what I uploaded to CrashPlan Backup one month, no shitograms from BT

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Re: Come on 150GB a month

I believe that traditionally it's file sharing, and mostly pirated films and TV shows, that accounts for the really large network use; not you downloading all those gigabytes, but other people downloading it from you, peer-to-peer, either free or for a modest and still illegal subscription. Torrents and so forth. But you also could be performing a legitimate activity that uses up bandwidth. Torrenting a movie that you made yourself, for instance. I wonder if they disallow commercial use...

Practically, as a user, you want generous bandwidth, but there are, evidently, valid business reasons for the ISP to want you to not use all of it all of the time, which is reflected in the price: full-time full throughput would be more expensive. Accordingly, what we really need is a word or phrase that describes how much you can use, without making it restrictive. Or maybe a word or phrase that means "nearly unlimited", but that sounds better.

Would it make sense to describe a quota or a fair use limit in hours of HD video per day? Which may be > 24 if people in the house are watching different things.

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Re: Come on 150GB a month

Or 5 x 1080p films with 7.1 DTS sound.

If it says unlimited then it shouldn't matter if it's 15Gb, 150Gb or 15Tb. Just give us an advertised cap and be done with this unlimited BS. It can't be done with current technology and economics.

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WTF?

Re: Come on 150GB a month

Or between 7 and 12 major game releases in a month via Steam/Origin etc. Max Payne 3 was recently on sale at £4 a pop, and that weighs in at 35GB. 150 a month is not a massive amount of data at all.

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FAIL

Re: Come on 150GB a month

Agreed it does sound a fair old sum, but the crux is if it says unlimited then it should be. Otherwise it should say "really high download limit which most of you will never exceed" (...not as catchy).

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Re: Come on 150GB a month

I very legitimately got through much more than 150GB during the month of the London Olympics with three teenage boys each watching a different sport in HD from dawn to dusk. Even in a quiet month my lads consume more than 60GB - with no file sharing or pr0n at all.

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Joke

Re: Come on 150GB a month @ aahjnnot

Of course they dont watch any porn... *wink wink*

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Anonymous Coward

Filesharing?

I'm sure you 'can' hit over 150GB a month running a server or something, but like Jediben says it's far easyer to hit that by splashing out 20 quid on 5 games through steam.

I can see the latter being done quite often by teenage gamers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Come on 150GB a month

I often hit a terabyte in a month. Even in a "quiet month" I use around 500Gb.

150Gb is not much to a lot of people nowadays.

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Bronze badge

Re: Come on 150GB a month

It would be interesting to know which exchanges and services and whether this applied to subscribers connected to the O2/BE LLU or those who had to connect via a third-party LLU such as BT Wholesale.

One of the things about the O2/BE offering was that it didn't really differentiate between business and residential usage. So whilst 150GB might be a lot for a typical family to get through a small business could quite easily use this.

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Trollface

Re: Come on 150GB a month - that's a lot of pron :S

Some might argue that is not enough pron!

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Unhappy

Re: Come on 150GB a month

I call bull on this. Between crash plan, netflix and twit.tv I use 250Gb to 300Gb a month.

Typically if the wife or I work at home we use 8 to 16 Gb between us streaming tv, while working over vpns.

So, yes, p2p may be a cause, but it's not all heavy users that use it.

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Re: Come on 150GB a month

Two people netflixing, iplayering (and other on-demand apps) youtubing/twitching as well as my cloud backup solution and other legit downloading and I can hit about 700Gb a month (up and down). Not a peep from my supplier as yet.

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Bronze badge

Re: Come on 150GB a month

You mention of HD video suggests one of the things that had changed. Streaming video was hardly dreamed of when I switched from old-style dial-up to Broadband to dial-up. My phone line, even now, is long enough to be a long way below advertised speed, but it's still not far below a gigabyte per hour. Upload is much less. What kills that possible total is the way that ISPs share out the capacity on the far side of the exchange. There are a lot of people sharing that bandwidth, and the available speed plummets in the evenings.

They told me about contention back then. Nobody seems to mentuion it now.

So only a very small cheer for the ASA.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Filesharing?

Well my monthly usage is 300GB (actually last month's was 330GB). It has gone up lots since we got Netflix. It used to be 200GB pm. Apparently Netflix sends lots of stuff in the background in HD.

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WTF?

Re: Come on 150GB a month

Sure, start watching shows in higher quality and your bandwidth usage will increase quite significantly...

Also lots of software is now distributed online, imagine downloading a few large games from steam or xbox live etc.

Incidentally, 150GB is equivalent to an uncapped 512kbit connection.

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Re: Come on 150GB a month

"... valid business reasons for the ISP to want you to not use all of it all of the time..."

That's fair enough but ISPs should just be honest about their traffic management policies and quotas. Like any other business, they should not make misleading or false claims when snagging customers.

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Bronze badge

Hmm

If you're buying between one and three games a week, are you actually getting to see all of the 30 GB of data - video - scenery - that each one takes? It may never even occur to you to play the "Max Payne testifies at his Violenceaholics Anonymous meeting" mission, so that's all wasted bytes. Could they not design it so that that part only loads if you actually play it?

Kids these days, you don't know what it was to play adventuring in 48 kilobytes of RAM on the Sinclair Spectrum, then reset the computer and load part two...

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Re: Come on 150GB a month

The economics of providing an unlimited service stack up. They just don't for everyone, in all geographies.

The economics of an LLU network are now such that it really isn't a problem, whether you're supplying FTTC or conventional DSL products.

The problem is that it requires a scale that few companies have. Basically Sky and TalkTalk. BT have the scale but sadly are regulated out the ass, so can't.

We have nearly 6000 telephone exchanges in the UK. Of which 2000 cover 95% of the populace. This leaves 4000 exchanges that are more costly than the other 2000 because they are in more rural areas etc. to backhaul.

The economics of providing an unlimited service to the 2000 exchanges is totally achievable, but you need millions of users, probably ~2M with a half decent spread across those 2000 exchanges. The remaining 5% of the UK that are on "Market 1" telephone exchanges, get stiffed with BT Wholesale products, that while very fair, being as the costs of all their users are averaged across the whole of the UK Populace, is very expensive relatively.

I don't think that Be had any non LLU clients. I might be wrong though. The fact that they couldn't offer this service is down to either poor management of fixed cost infrastructure, or a lack of scale (number of users) to warrant such a network. Consolidation in the market will reduce costs in the long-term from an economic perspective but arguably Rupert Murdoch has a track record in sewing up market share, through acquisition and bottoming out the prices in his chosen market (eg newspapers) and then once all competition became irrelevant stiffing his user base.

Whether this is on the roadmap, given the fact that all broadband is for sky, is a client retention program, for broadcast subscribers, who knows?!

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Anonymous Coward

Good company though

Been with them for about six or seven years, brilliant firm with top notch tech support and cheap as chips. Never been throttled or limited and I've hammered it, although not to 150gb!

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Re: Good company though

I was them for many years before moving ISP yesterday. Never had a problem with them at all, they was always fast and didnt complain no matter how much i downloaded. I was sorry to hear that they had been sold to sky.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good company though

Yeah. I'm watching this one carefully to see what happens and looking for a new provider just in case. Who did you go with?

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Big Brother

Re: Good company though

Say goodbye to that now you with Sky, they'll push traffic onto Be's network from the massively oversubscribed Sky line and service will plummet.

Also if you've not used 150GB a month then you haven't got anywhere near hammering a broadband connection, I expect a fair few more letters and emails will be going out now the media industry are in charge.

Also Be delayed rollout of Fibre by 2 years on everybody else, took something like a year to fix the backbone connection onto the iPlayer getting overused (which still has problems from time to time)

Like many independent ISP's they degrade, and they are about to degrade a lot faster, I wouldn't let Sky anywhere near our home, and especially not near the internet connection.

Paying for the 2.5Mbps upload never worked, the modem would re-sync down, even though the trigger for the resync seemed to be a dropout on the upload (even though the upload speed without the high speed download never had any problems)

I switched to BT subsidiary plusnet for reasonable priced unlimited Fibre (including a genuine assurance from the docs that 300GB is not going to get throttled or punished), what is more the Fibre with its 8 times faster upload, and no definite cap (unlike BT), and no massive price (unlike the other performance provider at around £50)

Be did a good job for us all in all, we never got letters about the usage, but seriously, it's time to switch, very good ISP's never get better, and the Be you know and love died about 2 years ago when they stopped planning ahead and decided to cash in, Sky will destroy them (what's left of them after the subscriber exodus that has already happened)

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Re: Good company though

"Paying for the 2.5Mbps upload never worked, the modem would re-sync down, even though the trigger for the resync seemed to be a dropout on the upload (even though the upload speed without the high speed download never had any problems)"

That should read that changing the upload affected the unchanged download sync (which dropped out), even though it didn't drop out at that speed with the slower upload sync, something that seems to indicate a fault of some sort

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Silver badge

Re: Good company though

"That should read that changing the upload affected the unchanged download sync"

I may be off here, but you seem to be saying that when you had annex M (2.5Mb upload) enabled, your router synced at a lower downstream rate.

If that's the case then it's to be expected. IIRC the higher upload speed is gained by taking some "tones" used for download and using them for upload. Unless you already easily sync at the top rate, it will reduce your downstream sync rate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good company though

Agreed, realy good ISP.

I jumped ship after finding about the Sky deal

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Re: Good company though

I've been with them for about six years - never had a problem. Would have happily recommended them to anyone, but the Sky thing was too much of a worry. So it's goodbye ADSL and hello Virgin.

And yes. The phrase "out of the frying pan and into the fire" has haunted me ever since I made the decision. 60Mbit down and 3Mbit up is still a hefty increase in performance, even with a more restrictive AUP.

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Silver badge

Re: Good company though

Another ex-BEer here. I switched over to Xilo and haven't had a problem. Customer support is top notch if you do need to call them.

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Re: Good company though @Mike Richards

>I switched over to Xilo and haven't had a problem.

Only word of warning is do check which wholesale/LLU service they are using for your connection.

I see that Xilo are upfront about the services they use, some other ISPs you have to do a little digging and be prepared to ask the question ...

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Re: Good company though

I was with Be for many years and happy too. It was the lack of fibre offering that made me switch. We were one of the early locations to get a fibre cab, but BE made no plans to roll out an offering. Eventually I switched to a fibre provider just before they announced the sky buy out.

Very happy with my current provider. I used 250gb in the first week of being connected

However I never answer the 'who did you switch to' question at least not on internet forums, because as soon as you start recommending an ISP, they go downhill!

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Re: Good company though

I've used sky broadband for about 3 years now, they said i'd get about 8 mbit/sec speed, i actually get 12mbit/sec, so that's good. I've used anywhere between 30gb to 500gb a month, depending on the situation (curse you steam summer sales!) never had any issues with them, never had anything saying i'm using too much, never throttled me for using torrents or streaming etc. I think within that 3 years i've had less than 24 hours of downtime caused by their connection, too. The router they provided is a bit poo, granted, but then it was free and you can use another router instead and just use the one they sent as a modem. So, fast enough broadband which is totally unlimited and costs me something bonkers like a tenner a month, since i have TV with them.

Much better than any other ISP i've used, inlcuding BT whom i had numerous issues with. Guess like most things it's one thing for one person and another for another though, I know people whom have had loads of issues with BT and with Sky and with BE etc.

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Trollface

Only 150GB

I'm sure Eadon downloads more than this - especially as he continually downloads very single distribution of Linux that has every existed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only 150GB

Na, I bet he maxs out on all the latest from his MSDN subscription... :-D

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Flame

ASA now turn you attention to mobile phone operator's 'unlimited' deals and Virgin's so called 'fibre optic (to the cabinet somewhere, coax to your home)' BB. People just don't believe me when i tell them their VM BB is not fibre to their home. Why can't BT and co market FTTC as just fibre (+copper if need be) if virgin can call theirs just fibre?

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Holmes

Because, as you rightly say, Virgin is coax, whereas BT is twisted pair. Which makes one hell of a diiference on how much bandwidth it can support.

I can't think of a way to turn the difference between the two technologies into MarketingSpeak.

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WTF?

Breaking News*****Twisted pair happily runs upto 10Gig (in bundles of 4 pairs typically terminated in RJ45),

not seen an y coax run that fast though

coax is still not even descriptively close to fibre. One uses a copper core with an insulter and woven copper shield & transmits radio frequency's, the other a glass core & transmits light. Any idiot can instantly see the difference when showed side by side, yet VM's commercials suggest the cable going from the street to customers premises, set top box or modem is actually fibre, which it is clearly not.

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Meh

Which makes one hell of a diiference on how much bandwidth it can support.

True but cable is held back a bit because a single cable is shared by several properties. It's particularly problematic with the upstream which is why cable rarely matches FTTC for upload speeds. If BT can make vectoring work then FTTC will give most people at least 100Mb/s which is pretty good.

VM would be better if they invested in their core network. They do seem to love running it hot :-/

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Mushroom

ASA only investigates complaints

If you have a bee in your bonnet about VM's "Fibre", make a complaint to the ASA. They only investigate things if people make a complaint, so having a whinge about it here on El Reg isnt going to accomplish anything, go and have a whinge at ASA, and hopefully they'll get off their butt and deal with it...

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Silver badge

"Because, as you rightly say, Virgin is coax, whereas BT is twisted pair. Which makes one hell of a diiference on how much bandwidth it can support."

Though I'm on FTTC + OH span with BT and I don't get the issues of my neighbours on VM.

Faster than them and no problems in the evenings.

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Bronze badge
Flame

ASA is a waste of space

So a few numpty customers who know that "unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited go running to the ASA and make a complaint, just to prove that they are clever and caught out a big company. There probably are a couple of customers who seriously think that "unlimited" really means you can download the whole internet over your broadband connection or don't realise how much data a download really is. 99.99% of the rest of the world realise that there is always a fair usage policy and that if you consistently download gigabytes then you're going to get throttled or kicked off.

All the ASA can do is publish the name of the naughty company and tell them not to do it again. Seriously, what is the point of it. It's better to teach people to understand what advertising is than the punish the miscreants after the fact which requires constant monitoring by interfering busybodies. But then I suppose you need to keep some people in a job doing eff all but paid a huge wack.

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Re: ASA is a waste of space

'So a few numpty customers who know that "unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited go running to the ASA and make a complaint'

Or maybe a few people, sick of seeing ISPs misleading their customers, complain to try to get "unlimited" to mean unlimited.

It's all well and goof to say that they 'know that "unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited', but it SHOULD mean unlimited. If it is not unlimited, it should not be advertised as "unlimited".

'It's better to teach people to understand what advertising is than the punish the miscreants after the fact which requires constant monitoring by interfering busybodies.'

Or it's better to make sure that advertisers don't lie to their (potential) customers!

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FAIL

Re: ASA is a waste of space

So you think midleading advertising is perfectly acceptable? Then can I interest you in this brand new* Porsche** at a knock-down price***

* apart from the previous owners

** Audi, but it's still German

*** fair use policy applies. Excessive use may result in clamping.

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Stop

Re: ASA is a waste of space

Or it's better to make sure that advertisers don't lie to their (potential) customers!

Adverts have always lied. From day one. Maybe these days it's mostly just 'clever exaggeration' but you'll never get accuracy and honesty from a marketing department. We do need the ASA and such ilk but I would agree with the previous poster insofar as it would be better to educate people as to what adverts really are.

I think that this should be required reading in all schools.

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Mushroom

Re: ASA is a waste of space

Misleading advertising misleads? So do you want this Rolex at 90% off. I promise you it's genuine, all Rolex watches are made in China.

Misleading advertising only misleads gullible. Do we need laws and rules to protect the stupid. We would need upteen million laws for every single situation that could ever happen. And it only punishes after the fact. Alternatively you teach people to understand what advertising is and to use their brains so that you don't need to go around holding their hand all their life.

It's like children. Do you protect them with bubble wrap and hover like a helicopter all the time 24/7, or do you teach them what is dangerous and what is not so that they be independent. The ASA is the state acting like a nanny.

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Mushroom

Re: ASA is a waste of space

"Or maybe a few people, sick of seeing ISPs misleading their customers, complain to try to get "unlimited" to mean unlimited."

Acting on behalf of others is a great way to go you know. That's why you have councillors saying St George's flags could be offensive to Muslims when all the local Muslims say "Don't be stupid, we are offended". Acting as a nanny for those who are perfectly capable of understanding what is going on is demeaning.

If you think advertising should lie to their customers then you don't understand advertising and marketing. It is ALL lies. Some lies are blatant, some white lies, some lies by omission, but it is always lies. Whenever you see an advert you should always ask "What it's trying to do", "What's it not telling me", etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ASA is a waste of space

"Misleading advertising only misleads gullible. Do we need laws and rules to protect the stupid"

Yes.

That statement is about as ridiculous as saying "Steps only confuse the physically infirm. Do we really need laws to protect the handicapped". You're essentially saying the gullible (and therefore vulnerable) are fair game and we should just allow them to be taken advantage of. That's a pretty reprehensible point of view.

"It's like children." Glad you said that, how many times have you warned a child of the danger of something and they've gone out and done it anyway? By your logic, if you warn a child about the dangers of talking to strangers but they do it anyway and something bad happens to them that's ok because they were gullible so they don't matter and it's perfectly ok? I mean seriously, you plainly haven't stopped to think this point through, I'd go so far as to say your comments make you seem very gullible to unthinkingly posting rubbish, so plainly you deserve nothing more than to be taken advantage of and ripped off all your life and none of should give one shit about it. Given your obvious inability to display even a rudimentary grasp of empathy, you're probably right.

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