Download Limits and Fair Usage Policies

Many broadband deals are advertised as ‘unlimited’ however, if you’ve recently signed up for one of these deals, you may be worried about hidden ‘fair usage’ policies which could restrict your internet usage.

Fortunately, nowadays most broadband deals advertised as ‘unlimited’ are as they seem, and secret usage caps have largely become a thing of the past. Despite this, there are a number of policies and terms you should still be on the lookout for when you compare broadband deals. This guide will explain what is meant by ‘acceptable usage’ and provide an overview of fair usage policies currently in use by providers.

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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 broadband you, use these policies instead place restrictions on how you use your broadband. When comparing broadband deals, look out for the difference between ‘unlimited’ and ‘truly unlimited’ deals.

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.

Which fair usage policies do providers use?

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


Sky’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 deal to a more expensive one.

Virgin Media

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


Like the other providers BT’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’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.

Post office

The Post office place no restriction on users with their unlimited package but does use a fair amount of traffic management. The Post office uses a traffic management policy which restricts file sharing between 4pm and 12am, users will also experience reduced download speeds if they use over 100GB worth of data in a month. The Post Office should pre-warn you if this is about to happen.


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.

For more details on each supplier's fair usage policy and traffic management policy view their websites:

Supplier Fair Usage Traffic Management
Onestream Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
Post Office Fair Usage Policy N/A
Direct Save Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
Shell N/A
SSE Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
Hyperoptic Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
Now Broadband N/A Traffic Management Policy
Plusnet Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
TalkTalk N/A Traffic Management Policy
John Lewis Fair Usage Policy N/A
Vodafone Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
EE N/A Traffic Management Policy
Sky Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
Virgin Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
BT Fair Usage Policy Traffic Management Policy
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