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What is a fair usage policy?

What is a fair usage policy?

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Last updated: 18 October 2022

Most broadband set ups these days are advertised as coming with ‘unlimited’ downloads, but up until recently many providers appended 'fair usage' limitations onto the contracts they sold.

Essentially, packages sold with a fair usage policy would limit the amount of data you could use per month with your internet connection (much like many mobile phone contracts today).

Worry not though; here at usave we have gone through the contracts of all the major providers to see who does and who doesn't still apply any fair usage limitations onto their internet packages.

What is ‘acceptable usage’?

Whilst ‘fair usage’ policies have largely become a thing of the past most providers continue to operate with an acceptable use policy

Rather than limiting the amount of data you use, these policies instead place restrictions on how you use your broadband. 

When you compare, look out for the difference between ‘unlimited’ and ‘truly unlimited’ broadband.

When you sign up to your broadband package you will also be signing up to one of these acceptable usage policies. 

By doing this you are agreeing to use your internet connection reasonably and not for unlawful activities such as illegal downloads or streaming. 

It is common for policies to require that you will not use your broadband beyond what is ‘reasonably expected’ for someone who is only using the service for their home as opposed to an office. 

This means you if you are downloading or uploading an abnormally large amount of data your provider will investigate. For most people using the internet within a standard household this should not be a concern.

Please note, acceptable usage is different to a traffic management policy, which is where your bandwidth might be adjusted at certain (usually peak) times of the day to lessen strain on the network.

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Fair usage policies by provider

To give you an idea of what to look out for when you compare broadband, this next section will look at how the fair usage policies offered by providers.

Sky fair usage policy

Sky Broadband’s unlimited packages are truly unlimited, however, for those not on unlimited packages your usage should be monitored as if you repeatedly exceed your limits then Sky will automatically upgrade your broadband contract to a more expensive one.

Virgin Media fair usage policy

Virgin Media’s unlimited packages offer no restrictions whatsoever on their users’ usage with no traffic management. This means you can upload and download as you please.

Plusnet fair usage policy

Plusnet’s unlimited packages are also unlimited with no restrictions for users or use of traffic management by the provider.

BT fair usage policy

Like the other providers, BT broadband’s unlimited packages place no restrictions on the user and do not use traffic management. If you have instead chosen a package with a monthly allowance BT will notify you when you have used up to 70% of your allowance and will send another email at around 90%.

EE fair usage policy

EE Broadband’s unlimited packages are also unlimited and for most of its packages web traffic management is not in place. However, in the case of EE’s ‘off-net’ services web traffic management comes into place during peak times. These are between 4.30pm and 1am on weekdays and between 1.30pm and 1am on weekends. This means activities such as streaming, downloading big files or peer-to-peer downloading will be slower.

TalkTalk fair usage policy

TalkTalk similarly offers no limits on usage to its users and for customers also subscribed to TalkTalk TV a fair amount of capacity is set aside. This means there’s no need to worry about slow speeds when streaming TV at peak times.


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Harry Pererra

Author: Harry Pererra

Harry turns on his experience in web design and programming to write about the latest news in the world of tech and broadband. When he isn’t writing for usave he is working towards his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and prefers dogs to cats.