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Is deliberately using up all of your broadband data allowance “being a dick”?

broadband data allowance
Fair's fair: is it right to max out your allowance for the sake of it?

The broadband industry is full of pathological liars. “Unlimited” tariffs are usually nothing of the sort and quoted line speeds are award-winning fiction. In a sea of bullshit, British broadband provider AAISP* is a rare life buoy of sanity.

It’s the only company I’ve ever known whose terms and conditions are actually worth reading. “If we, or you, are rude or unhelpful then there is specifically zero compensation for this either way in the contract,” reads the section on customer services. “We may terminate a call or chat if we feel you are being rude, and we would happy for you to do the same if staff are rude.”

Such startling honesty comes from the top. Owner Adrian Kennard has never been knowingly short of an opinion, as his RevK’s rants blog exemplifies. This week, he’s managed to get himself in a tangle with some of his company’s own customers, accusing one customer who sought to use up every last byte of his monthly 1TB data allowance of “being a dick”. In my equally un-humble opinion, Kennard’s dead right.

Spending your allowance

AAISP doesn’t offer the “unlimited” data allowances that are sold by mainstream broadband providers. Of course, there’s no such thing as an “unlimited” allowance – those tariffs are tied to fair-use agreements and other Ts & Cs that allow the provider to boot you off the network or slow your connection if you’re downloading dodgy movies 24/7.

The largest data cap AAISP offers home customers is 1TB. That’s 1,000GB or the equivalent of a thousand hours’ worth of HD Netflix streaming. It’s a lot of data, far more than most home users would ever need.

One AAISP customer, however, appears to view the 1TB as a target rather than allowance. According to Kennard, the customer said he would “deliberately download stuff, and not even save it or watch it, just to make sure he uses up all of his 1TB allowance each month”.

This, argues Kennard, is dickish behaviour, equating it to leaving your taps running around the clock just because you’re not on a water meter. “If everyone ran their taps, metered or unmetered, all day, then the water supply would break,” Kennard argues. “[There is] no way it has capacity for that even if charging for the water. The same is true of internet access. It only works because most people are ‘reasonable’. So should a supplier aim to curb the usage of metered and unmetered customers that have intent to piss water down the drain?’

To be clear, Kennard doesn’t appear to have thrown the terabyte muncher off his network, but he says it will be a problem if others follow suit. “One of the issues with a moral problem like this is that a single person not playing fair does not cause a problem. There is capacity to handle one person being selfish and deliberately wasting resources.” Kennard writes. “The issue is when lots of individuals think like that, that ‘one person makes no difference’. Then it all starts to fall apart. It is a bit like littering – one empty can thrown out of a car window is not a big issue, but everyone doing it makes it a big issue.”

Don’t be a dick

The customer and his supporters will retort that the guy is only using what he’s paid for. As long as he’s not strayed over the 1TB limit, it’s nobody’s business what he does with the data. It’s hard not to have some sympathy with that argument, as Kennard himself does.

That said, you have to stop and gawp at the mentality of a customer that wants to download a terabyte of data just because he can. How empty is your life, that you’re prepared to download bucketloads of unwanted data just to get your forty quid’s worth every month?

You surely become a customer of broadband providers such as AAISP because you appreciate the honesty, the uniqueness of its offering. If you don’t want such companies to exist, you’re going the right way about it.

* Full disclosure: AAISP employees have written for the Big Tech Question in a personal capacity, but had no input into or knowledge of this article 

Main pic credit: James Baker/BestReviewsBase

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day.

4 Comments

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  • I agree completely with Adrian Kennard. The customer is being a dick. The water analogy is a fair one. I have a data allowance which is quite a lot bigger than I actually use. I have it because it means I can have something unusual happen, and I know I’m not going to use up my allowance and can just get on with what I’m doing.

    I remember a similar parallel back when I was using another ISP, Z*****. They offered dial-up connection via an un-metered service offered via BT, and I took that up because I calculated it would be cheaper than paying BT per call. It worked well, and I didn’t abuse it. However, quite a few customers took this as permission to stay connected 24/7! The problem was that Z****** didn’t have incoming equipment capacity for dedicated users like that, and if they had it would have been a lot more expensive for us. I was personally carful to log off when I’d finished, and I would only use a few hours a day. Unfortunately, their reaction to the few was to call all users who used more than a small amount ‘abusers’. I decided to jump ship to a better ISP.

    (Disclaimer: I jumped ship to AAISP, and I’m on their 2TB Soho::1 service)

  • With rights come responsibilities – I have the right to use that data as I see fit. I also have the responsibility to assess if my use is detrimental to others in the community and consider whether my behaviour would change if I were being charged per byte. The water analogy is fair. RevK is being fair, probably more than fair. Not a customer I would want. Move the selfish dick to a unit based tariff. And perhaps arrange a water leak in their home.

  • I have a complicated opinion. The guy is being a dick. He also paid for 1TB so he can do what he like with it. If that is not the case then it should not have been so described, even though we can understand how AA (reasonably) intended it to be, imho that’s not what it said in the tin, read literally. The right thing would be for users to use the AA units-based tariff where you buy however much you might need and that amount is up to you and can be varied up or down.

    The water analogy is partly appropriate partly not. Running all the water down the drain is bad because there is a finite amount. This is not so with bandwidth. Higher bandwidth demand has meant the capacity of the network has been increased, and this is not obviously limited – fatter pipes can be had, it just takes more cash, the network is not limited but elastic. However the equivalent of running all the water down the drain is dickish in this case as it means that prices would have to go up for other users because AA made the assumption that these allowances would be _underused_.

    So basically we have a miscommunication. Plus an element of ‘to hell with everyone else’ even though our ‘dick’ is arguably literally in the right, but perhaps the choice of _insisting_ on that right is not reasonable in this case.

    It is difficult when things are honestly intended to mean one thing, but end up being read differently by someone else.

    It is remarkable to get this level of openness and honest debate from a company. Users should be delighted.

  • I agree with Cecil. Well, the first bit anyway. Not the bit where he tries to convince us that bandwidth isn’t limited.

    But, yeah, he’s being a dick for doing this and will probably spoil the fun for everybody else but he is paying for that limit and has a right to use it. But going out of your way to do it, even to the point of wasting it, is stupid.

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