A third of Brits in broadband penalty peril this Christmas

New research from Broadbandchoices.co.uk reveals 32% of broadband users plan to watch more online TV this festive season, putting them at increased risk of incurring a penalty fine for excessive downloading

The fear of missing a favourite TV show at Christmas is now firmly a thing of the past. With an ever increasing list of programmes made available online through services such as BBC iPlayer, TV fans needn’t miss a moment of their favourite festive features.

New research* from Ofcom-accredited comparison site Broadbandchoices.co.uk has revealed that almost a third (32%) of all British broadband households plan to watch more online TV over the Christmas period this year. The growing number of online TV fans, whilst a success in terms of users, raises a number of issues that bill-payers should be aware of.

The vast majority of broadband packages come with a download limit and/or a ‘fair usage policy’ attached. The download limits restrict the physical amount of downloading a person can do using their broadband connection and the fair usage policies tend to penalise users for downloading at the certain times of the day. When these terms are exceeded, ISPs can choose to penalise the offender by imposing a punitive fine or “throttling” (restricting) their connection speed.

Michael Phillips, product director, commented:
“Anyone planning to catch up on their favourite TV shows using their broadband connection this Christmas should check the terms of their download limit and fair usage policy to ensure they are not in danger of receiving a penalty fine or having their connection speed throttled.

“The use of online TV services is clearly only going to increase in the future, so it is crucial that consumers understand that even if a broadband package says it is ‘unlimited’ it is still highly likely that it will have some form of fair usage policy attached. Once broadband users have exceeded their download limit or fair usage terms, they will not be able to plead ignorance to avoid the consequences.

“With the whole family at home and using online services this Christmas, we strongly urge broadband customers to start monitoring their levels of downloading – otherwise they could end up paying out for more than just presents this festive season.”

Broadbandchoices.co.uk’s top tips for online TV downloading this Christmas:

* Pick the right ISP – Some providers like Be Broadband or O2 Broadband are designed with heavy downloaders in mind. Although their ‘unlimited’ packages come with fair usage policies attached, both ISPs are more generous with their allowances than most. Ultimately, you need to compare what is available in your area using an Ofcom-accredited comparison calculator to find the best deal for you.

* Download at night – Traffic shaping, which slows down a broadband connection, is applied by many providers during peak hours during the evening. Therefore broadband users who download at night – usually from midnight onwards – should find their music and movie files download a lot quicker. Some packages like PlusNet’s Pro plan, offer free overnight downloading, so it won’t come out of your monthly usage allowance.

* Turn off your peer-to-peer – Programs like the BBC iPlayer use peer-to-peer software to share files faster between users. However simply closing them will let them continue to run in the background uploading files to the sharing network. This not only slows a connection down, but will also eat away at your download allowance as uploading also counts against usage limits. Make sure that you fully exit the program each time you close it, and use your task manager to check that it’s not running any more.

* Track your usage – If you have a set download limit, or you’re concerned about exceeding your fair usage allowance, then installing a free Broadband Download Monitor is a great way of tracking your downloads and you can even set alarms to alert you as you near your limit.

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