*subject to fair usage policy

*subject to fair usage policy?

Is Fair Usage fair? We discussed previously the problem that networks have with consumers and the impact that has on enforcing contracts. The imbalance in the relationship between the mighty networks and the ordinary Joe on the street. This imbalance means that the consumers have a blank cheque from the network- they can go to any country, stream video 24 hours a day or sign up to those dodgy text services. When the network attempts to charge for the services already provided they are told that it is “unreasonable” to expect a consumer to pay tens of thousands of Pounds to cover the costs incurred.

The networks needed a defence mechanism. If they can’t (broadly speaking) charge what can they do? The answer appears to be the Fair Usage Policy. This old catch all phrase has been used to cover a very broad spectrum of activity.

The most obvious one was the asterisk at the end of the statement “Data bundle- 5gigs*”

*subject to fair usage policy.

What that really meant is that your data is 5Gig but what is likely to happen is that when it looks like you are going to exceed that data allowance then the network reserves the right to choke the throughput of that particular connection.  You’re not getting cut off, you are just getting slower to make sure that you don’t exceed the bundle and start racking up serious overage. It can even mean a hard stop if the throttling doesn’t seem to be working.

But Fair Usage can mean much more. It covers the networks responsibility as a deliverer of content. DRM, Porn, even the skin tone content of pictures can be flagged. If the file is a picture then the network reserves the right to compress it in order to keep your usage down and save you money.

It can also cover how the SIM is expected to be used. In the networks modelling - a Mobile Broadband (MBB) SIM should be used in a USB Dongle for an hour or so in a café to download emails and catch up on the ubiquitous Facebook. This sensibly extends in to a profile of non-continuous use, no peer to peer, no extended VPN use and so on.

So the networks can now offer a large seeming data bundle safe in the knowledge that they know how and when it’s going to be used and the comfort of knowing that even if they can’t bill for overage and miss-use they have a back stop, they have a way of managing the risk. This also allows them to hit pricing expectations.

The consumer at the same time can be reassured that although they have a responsibility to keep the SIM safe and to manage their own usage the best they can they are not risking bankruptcy every time they pull out their phone. Both parties win. Fair usage does indeed appear to be fair.

Next time we will have a look at the unintended consequences of Fair Usage when it has been unwittingly applied to the world of Internet of Things.

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