BTopenworld says that new restrictions on heavy usage dial-up access will improve the service for the vast majority of its dial-up customers; cynics say they are a stealth move to broadband. The truth is somewhere in between: the marketing could be seen as misleading, but pushing heavy users to broadband makes long-term sense for (almost) everyone concerned.
BT’s ISP division plans to impose new time limits on its Anytime and Surftime offering.
From November 1, UK telco BT’s ISP division, BTopenworld, will restrict users of its BT Anytime service to a monthly quota of 150 hours online for their GBP15.99 flat fee. BT Surftime users, who currently pay GBP6.99 per month for evening and weekend access, will be limited to 120 hours.
This is the second restriction that BT has placed on Anytime: in June, it restricted access to 12 hours a day, rather than 16. At the time, it encouraged those living in ADSL-connected areas to shift to broadband – offering the first 5,000 a GBP90 credit in return.
BT says the limitations are to deter heavy dial-up users who hog bandwidth and compromise other users’ experience; most customers it surveyed said that 100 hours were more than adequate. According to Oftel, the average web user spends around nine hours online per week – so BT considers its offer reasonable.
Cynics might claim that BT is being misleading, making its ‘unmetered’ dial-up offering less and less genuinely unmetered. It wouldn’t be alone: Freeserve ran into trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority after claiming that users could go on to the Internet…for as long as you like, even though they are disconnected after two hours. Such misleading claims are bad news, helping neither customers nor the industry.
That aside, BT’s strategy seems sensible. For most Internet users, 150 hours is fine – and the dial-up Internet access model is more sustainable if the 3% of heavy users migrate to broadband. In the longer term, BT wants to phase out dial-up and move to the broadband model, just as broadcasters are moving from analog to digital.
The only players at risk of losing out are SOHOs and SMEs. Some small businesses that need constant access to the Internet, but do not need to send or receive data-heavy files, may have little choice but to upgrade to broadband.
Related research: Datamonitor, Fixed Line and Wireless Broadband Access in Europe (DMTC0796)
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