Fair's fair for big internet users

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 November, 2011, 12:00am


Whether it is for work or leisure, internet access is considered by many of us to be indispensable nowadays. Just look around when travelling on public transport, or even eating in a restaurant - you will always find people with eyes glued to a gadget. The demand for an unlimited broadband-service plan is, therefore, not surprising. For a few hundred dollars a month, these 'all-you-can-use' packages allow web users to surf to their heart's content.

But there is a catch, it seems: There may be limits to the 'unlimited' use provided by a package. That is the warning from the telecommunications watchdog.

Last week, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority belatedly raised the alarm over what appears to be misleading sales information. Companies use the excuse of allowing fair access to other users to slow down or even suspend the service for those whose usage is deemed exceptionally high, such as those who download films using peer-to-peer file-sharing services. A fair-usage policy, it might be said, has good intentions. But heavy users are often not aware of such restrictions when subscribing to a plan claiming to give them unlimited use. They are left feeling cheated and deceived when access is restricted. The past 22 months have seen 234 complaints of this kind.

From February, Ofta says, companies will be required either to spell out clearly in their advertisements all the limitations or stop restricting usage for subscribers to unlimited packages. This must be enforced. Consumers are entitled to get the service they signed up for.

Some users are already worried that the so-called unlimited internet access packages will soon be replaced by pay-as-you-go services as a result of the new rule. If that is the case, consumers will at least know where they stand and that, if they want to download large files, they will have to pay extra for it.