Fast4 ISP restricts heavy broadband users

UK ISP Fast4, which has recently been suffering from a raft of connectivity and speed problems, yesterday announced that 200 of its broadband customers have had their Internet use limited following excessive downloading.

Some customers, which claim to have received no prior warnings, now find themselves dismayed given the frequent use of "unlimited", “No Speed Restrictions”, "No Gimmicks and No Small Print" and "we have no fair usage policy" phrases on the ISP's website. Not to mention one about not limiting P2P:

Nick Pulsford, Technical Director of Fast4 said “Over the past weeks all of our customers have been complaining of low speeds and really high ping rates. We managed to identify about 200 customers that have been massively abusing our network.

One customer who was cancelled immediately on Wednesday this week was running a peer to peer server and was spoofing his IP address. When we traced him, he had approximately 20,000 to 30,000 concurrent connections active.

All of the other customers involved in today’s clean up have received numerous email warnings yet most of them have been ignored. We are contacted numerous times a day by the film and music industry about illegal file sharing and with the outcome of today’s US trial we have had to stand firm with our decisions.”

In the US today Jammie Thomas (32) has been ordered to pay £109,000 for file sharing using Kazaa:

We have today also added section 11.3 to our Network Abuse Policy to cover an automated restrictive service to make sure that the very small minority do not spoil what should be a great experience for the majority of our customers. We have been working with our supplier (EurISP) to enable this action. The service we are selling is still totally unlimited and we are pleased that the majority of our customer base will now instantly see a dramatic improvement in their connection speeds.

We will continue to automatically identify the very small number of extremely heavy users and manage their bandwidth to protect the service for all of our other customers. We believe that this is the fairest approach as it protects the quality of service for the vast majority of our customers who use the service for normal Internet activity.

Customers affected by this action will share bandwidth with each other and will be separated from other customers. The amount of bandwidth available for affected customers to share will be at least as much as for those customers unaffected by the policy.

The speed affected customers experience when downloading will therefore depend on what these customers are doing. If they are all web-browsing and reading emails, they will experience a normal broadband speed. If on the other hand they are using Peer to Peer or file sharing software they will experience a slower broadband speed.

Unfortunately customers hoping that Fast4's T&C adjustment would allow them to leave without having to pay an £85 exit charge may be disappointed. The provider considers its "change" to be little more than an "update" to clarify their existing network abuse policy.

Naturally customers have reacted angrily to the news, with few seeing a performance improvement, including several that claim not to be heavy users. Typically we have warned about the dangers of selecting super cheap providers in the past and sadly much of the blame must rest with the ISP’s own marketing.

Ultimately the test will be whether or not Fast4’s service can improve over the coming week(s). Many will also be hoping that their marketing is swiftly adjusted to reflect the updated abuse policy.

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