Signed up for an unlimited broadband package? Worried that there’s a ‘fair usage’ cap hidden away somewhere in the small print? Worry not - we at broadbandchoices have trawled through your contract to find out once and for all.
Luckily, most unlimited packages these days are truly unlimited - or at least, they're as unlimited as they say on the tin. Secret usage caps aren't very common any more. However, there are still a few terms to be on the lookout for that could affect how you can use your broadband. Think traffic management, acceptable use policies, and more.
So here's our guide to the basics of fair usage - but for the full details, always have a read over of your broadband contract, as this kind of info is often subject to change.
Fair usage may be wonderfully absent, but most broadband providers do have an acceptable use policy. This is less to do with how much broadband you use, and more to do with how you're using it.
By agreeing to your contract, and therefore the acceptable use policy, you agree to use your connection reasonably - basically by not using it for anything illegal or otherwise dodgy. Some also state that you mustn't use it beyond what can be "reasonably expected of someone using the service for domestic purposes" - meaning that they'll investigate if you're downloading or uploading a ridiculously high level of data. So long as you're using your connection as a normal, domestic household, there's very little to worry about here (even if you're a heavy user).
For more info, take a look at our guide to small print on your broadband contract.
Broadband providers' fair usage policies
Let's take a look at some providers' fair usage policies.
BT fair usage
BT's policies are pretty fair when it comes to usage. Unlimited packages are truly unlimited with no upper limit at all, and there's absolutely no traffic management. Sweet. If you are on a package with a specific monthly allowance, BT will send you warning emails when you're approaching your maximum allowance - the first email around the the 60-70% mark, and then a second email when you reach 80-90% of your allowance.
EE fair usage
Unlimited broadband from EE is indeed unlimited too, and for most packages it doesn't manage web traffic. The exception here is for its 'off-net' services, for which it does manage traffic. At peak time - 4.30pm-1am on weekdays, 1.30pm-1am on weekends - it slows down things like peer-to-peer downloading, newsgroups, streaming, and downloading big files.
Plusnet fair usage
Plusnet's unlimited packages don't have any usage cap at all, either - they really are unlimited - nor does the provider manage web traffic.
Post Office fair usage
Unlimited broadband from Post Office is indeed unlimited too, though it does a little bit of traffic management.
The provider's sort of vague on what exactly that management entails. What it does say for certain is that peer-to-peer file sharing is restricted - but other than that there's not a whole lot of info.
Sky fair usage
Sky's unlimited are completely, truly unlimited, with no traffic management either.
Although, watch out for those penalties if you're on a contract that does have a usage limit. If you go over your limit too many times, Sky will automatically upgrade you to a more expensive package.
TalkTalk fair usage
TalkTalk is pretty liberal on the fair usage front. Its unlimited broadband is truly unlimited, and there's no traffic management whatsoever.
In fact, it always has a little of its capacity set aside for TalkTalk TV customers, so you shouldn't need to worry about watching catch-up telly on your YouView box at any time of day.
Virgin Media fair usage
Virgin Media's unlimited packages are indeed unlimited with no limit to how much you can download. It also no longer manages web traffic - it's truly unlinited.