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'Throttling' Broadband Provider Sued In Australia 130

Posted by timothy
from the for-some-values-of-unlimited dept.
destinyland writes "Optus has been severely throttling users who exceed a download quota, according to ZDNet — down from 100Mbps to 64Kbps — and it's drawn attention from federal regulators. Optus's ad campaign promises 'supersonic' speeds, and one technology blog notes that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 'isn't happy about Optus' sensationalist claims, which it's sure breaches the Trade Practices Act.' Australia's trade commission called the practice 'misleading or deceptive,' and the broadband provider now has a date in court next month, the second one since a June hearing over 'unlimited' voice and data plans that actually had usage caps."
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'Throttling' Broadband Provider Sued In Australia

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  • Title? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @01:47PM (#33628630)

    shouldn't it be "provider" and not "provided?" the difference is subtle, yet profound...

  • by Nursie (632944) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @01:50PM (#33628654)

    Damn, where do I have to live to get that?

    • by Nursie (632944) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @01:52PM (#33628678)

      Oh right, I see, any city that's not Perth. Got it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trentus (1017602)

      I'm having trouble finding any reference to a 100mb/s plan on either Optus' site or whirlpool.net

      As for throttling once you've used a set amount of data, that's pretty much standard practice... it's not like they hide it.

      • by gshegosh (1587463)
        Oh, I have this "n" card in my laptop and Windows says I have a "300mb/s" connection - if only those bastards didn't throttle meh down ;-)
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As for throttling once you've used a set amount of data, that's pretty much standard practice... it's not like they hide it.

        That doesn't make it any less illegal, though.

        If I were to post an ad that said "I'm selling chocolate for 1 dollar per kilogram!", people would come and then I would only sell first 100g per customer for that price and ramp the prices up for amount exceeding that... Yeah, it would become obvious to people who showed up and wanted to buy more than 100g but it would still have been false advertising in the first place.

        • Supermarkets regularly have specials where a price is given with a limit to how many you can buy at that price (limit in small print). That fits your analogy precisely.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        As for throttling once you've used a set amount of data, that's pretty much standard practice... it's not like they hide it.

        I don't mind caps and/or throttling , but only when it is clearly advertised as such. E.g. in my case there is a 50Gb cap, and it is very clearly present in the description of my plan when I signed up for this. Nor was it advertised to me as "unlimited" at any point before or during purchase.

        IMO, any use of the word "unlimited" in conjunction with that is blatant fraud, and should be prosecuted as such.

        • It used to be, back in the 90s, you were only given 100 hours (approximately) per month.

          Even today some providers like Netzero only give you 10 hours. So "unlimited" advertising in the 90s meant unlimited HOURS not data. In this case they TELL you exactly 200 GB, so you can't claim ignorance of the data cap

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mjwx (966435)

        As for throttling once you've used a set amount of data, that's pretty much standard practice... it's not like they hide it.

        My understanding of the complaint was not that OptArse was throttling but the way optus had advertised the service.

        Throttling is standard practice, nothing you can sue about there but they have to be honest about it as you can sue for misleading advertising, which as I understand it is what the complaint is about.

      • >>>As for throttling once you've used a set amount of data, that's pretty much standard practice... it's not like they hide it.

        Precisely. If you paid for 200 GB ( and you hit that limit, I think the companies have every right to cut your off completely, just the same as my calling card or cellphone "cut me off" when I run out of minutes. The fact you still have Dialup speed is actually quite generous of them.

      • Alright I looked it up.

        "Unlimited downloads during peak hours" is what the fine print says. The other plans only let you download 50GB during primetime. I guess it's similar to how cellphones only let you have XX minutes during primetime, unless you specifically buy an "unlimited minutes" plan.

    • Damn, where do I have to live to get that?

      In the NOC?

    • by Netshroud (1856624) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @07:29PM (#33630852)
      Optus' 100Mbps plan is what they call the "Optus Premium Speed Pack". An extra AU$20/mo on almost any Cable plan, plus a new DOCSIS3.0 modem, and you'll be chewing through your monthly quota about 5 times as fast. Then they throttle you. If you get the more expensive Fusion plans (the 'Unlimited' ones) the throttling speed is 256kbps. They try getting away with that because 256kbps is the minimum speed to technically be 'Broadband'. ACCC, attack!
    • by pookemon (909195)
      Hmm yeah - that was my thought too. The NBN promises speeds of 100Mbps, so presumably the one person on the NBN is also an Optus customer and they've blown their quota. Not sure why you'd complain if you were shaped when you went over your quota though. That's the purpose of quota's...
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Damn, where do I have to live to get that?

      Anywhere with an Amcom fibre connection. Of course for 10 Mbit/s uncapped you're paying $1,500. I'd hate to think what 100 MB/s costs.

      Someone tell me why the NBN is not a good thing again and how Australian broadband is good enough because it's not getting through my 2 Mbit DSL at home.

    • Damn, where do I have to live to get that?

      Well, yeah you can get it, just don't you dare use it.

  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @01:52PM (#33628674) Journal

    From the summary:
    Optus's ad campaign promises 'supersonic' speeds
    Well, I'd expect that. I wouldn't like a ping time of 6 seconds per kilometer distance!

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      Optus's ad campaign promises 'supersonic' speeds Well, I'd expect that. I wouldn't like a ping time of 6 seconds per kilometer distance!

      Nobody expects a sonic transmission!

  • Title (Score:2, Informative)

    by antant007 (1702214)
    I think the title was meant to be read "Broadband provider that throttles sued in Australia"
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @02:13PM (#33628804) Homepage

    If you don't subscribe to Optus's "premium" tiers, your service can be throttled to 28.8 Kb/s. [optus.com.au] From the Optus price list:

    'yes' DSL Basic 200MB

    • High Speed Data Allowance: 200MB
    • Speed Limit if High Speed Data Allowance Exceeded (kbps): 28.8
    • Monthly Access Fee (from 15 April 2009): $49.95

    'yes' DSL Unlimited

    • High Speed Data Allowance: 12 GB
    • Speed Limit if High Speed Data Allowance Exceeded (kbps): 64
    • Monthly Access Fee (from 15 April 2009) $91.95

    Yes, they really call it "unlimited", in the same table with the limits. That table isn't easy to find. You have to go through three web pages, then download several Word documents

    That's their DSL service. Their cable service has similar tiers and terms, but slightly different pricing.

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday September 19, 2010 @02:30PM (#33628936)

      Yes, they really call it "unlimited", in the same table with the limits.

      I'm always amazed by people whose frontal lobes are capable of generating and publishing such non-sequiturs without exploding.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

        I'm always amazed by people whose frontal lobes are capable of generating and publishing such non-sequiturs without exploding.

        My impression is that salesman, marketing people, politicians, and lawyers are often more interested in the effects their words have on others, than the actual soundness of the logic contained therein.

        If one can claim that their broadband service is "unlimited" to get increased sales, without being overly sued, I think that's all some of these people care about.

        It's evil: they're wil

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Not by those on which it is apparently working? (it wouldn't really be done otherwise)

        • Not by those on which it is apparently working?

          Yah. Them too. This just goes to show that ignorance is not bliss.

      • Hey, they came up with a whole marketing campaign based around the notion that information on their internet service travels faster than the speed of sound - these people aren't high on the evolutionary tree as far as frontal lobes go.

      • by lorelorn (869271)
        They mostly work in marketing. I believe it's a pre-requesite there.
    • by kaptink (699820) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @02:32PM (#33628950) Homepage

      Those access fees are quite high compared to some of the competition. Possibly why they are using dishonest advertising to trick people who dont know or care that much into using them instead. Just looking at broadbandchoice.com.au shows several providers offering 150gb for $90 a month. A bit more than 12gb. Worth looking at this comparison http://bc.whirlpool.net.au/bc/?action=search&state=any&class=0&type=res&pre=3000&cost=100&speed=512&upspeed=0&ip=1&contract=99&upfront=999999&needhw=yes&conntype=1&conntype=4&conntype=5&sort=0 [whirlpool.net.au]

      • "broadbandchoice.com.au shows several providers offering 150gb for $90 a month."

        I've been with Optus for 10yrs, my current plan is 170GB for $70/mth (fibre, not copper).
      • BT Broadband do the same in the UK. However, they do not tell you what the maximum is on their 'unlimited' tiers. They just cap your download to 64kb/s out of the blue, at a month at a time.

    • So there is a shittier ISP than AT&T, i can get either 200 MB for $15 or 2 GB for $25 wirelessly. I understand using less than 200 MB on a cell phone plan, but with multimedia all the shit that you have to deal with on sites these days it is fucking insane to think that 200 MB is enough, software updates alone just for windows or mac I am sure exceed that on a monthly basis.

      • The 200 MB plans are used by people like my grandfather who only use the connection every 2 days to check their email. Anything requiring the use of the keyboard is too complicated.

        Windows updates are surprisingly small since they are just bug patches and not new features. Updating a fresh XP SP3 I think would use up most of that 200 MB but after that it's way less. If you also factor in apps that update (whether with systray bloatware or check on run) it may run over the 200 MB limit.

        200 MB wouldn't last m

    • For a long time Telstra was just as bad.

      They also called their 10GB, (which later went to 12GB) plan 'Unlimited' (with the other plans being pay per MB over)). They also throttled to 64kbps (and still do), with 128kbps upload at all times (even when uncapped).

      At 64kbps the internet is unusable. Certain sites will not load at *all*. The rest you usually have to refresh 4-5 times until it loads anything. Most of the time it half loads, then stops.

      I have a feeling it has more than just the speed, because sites

    • by erikdalen (99500)

      12GB/month is ~38.8 Kb/s, so you could argue that they raise the speed once you've reached their 'unlimited' limit :)

  • by radarsat1 (786772) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @02:13PM (#33628808) Homepage

    With all the negative press these "limited-unlimited" plans have been getting both for cell phones and internet providers, I would think that a marketable slogan might now be:

    "Due to the laws of physics, we aren't unlimited, but we'll do the next best thing and make it easy for you to monitor your usage and judge how much you are spending on bandwidth!"

    It would be nice to have an ISP that attains success by being honest instead of by lying to their customers.

    It seems the "unlimited" thing seems like such a good sell that every ISP feels the need to offer it, even when they can't actually handle the traffic. What ever happened to not selling things you can't offer?

    (The corollary of SNL's "Don't Buy Things You Can't Afford.")

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) *

      It seems the "unlimited" thing seems like such a good sell that every ISP feels the need to offer it, even when they can't actually handle the traffic

      Certain words and phrases are simply irresistible to certain mindsets, even when those words and phrases have long since ceased to have any real meaning. They just can't help it: they're so steeped in dishonesty that they don't really see any other way. If the law does come down on these people and force them to fix their advertising, I'm guessing it will be just as painful to these types as having all of their teeth root-canaled simultaneously.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Perhaps we should just let consumers ACTUALLY set their pants on fire. Then we can film it and make it the new reality show.

      • by dargaud (518470)

        Certain words and phrases are simply irresistible to certain mindsets

        I can understand that. What I can't understand is why the advertisement regulators aren't on their asses in one millisecond for blatant false advertisement.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      It's unfortunate that any new ISP would be subject to using the network of one of those problematic ISPs. The only possible solution would be to make the entire infrastructure public, but I doubt lobbyists would allow that to happen, anywhere in the world.
      • by lgftsa (617184)
        I can't tell if you're being ironic, sarcastic or trolling.

        <confused />
      • by deniable (76198)
        In a perfect world, the federal government would roll out a national broadband network to provide wholesale access. Then they'd probably sell it at fire-sale prices to someone like Telstra.
    • by Patman64 (1622643)

      I always get a laugh when I ask someone how fast their internet is and they respond: "Unlimited!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DeadboltX (751907)

      What ever happened to not selling things you can't offer?

      ISPs are a business notorious for overselling. It makes less tangible sense today, but think back 15 years ago when each customer needed a physical modem to dial in to. Now everything is digital, so they will cram as many users on the same line as they can until it stops making fiscal sense because of lost customers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by billcopc (196330)

      "Due to the laws of physics, we aren't unlimited, but we'll do the next best thing and make it easy for you to monitor your usage and judge how much you are spending on bandwidth!"

      Too many words. People are stupid. Lies work better. I go now.

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      I know one ISP (iiNet) that actually did something similar: instead of making their largest quota unlimited, they made it 1TB then advertised the fact that it was the largest in the country.
      And being able to monitor your usage is pretty much a given here - even Telstra/Bigpond showed you how much you'd used (at least they did back when I was with them).

  • Big deal (Score:2, Informative)

    Comcast has throttled any P2P traffic - regardless of your plan - into the ground. The FCC has told them numerous times to stop, they told the FCC to fuck off. Numerous times.

    But hey - things can play out different in Oz right? Whatever keeps those delusion flags flying is fine by me.
    • Re:Big deal (Score:4, Insightful)

      by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @02:41PM (#33629004) Journal

      Comcast has throttled any P2P traffic - regardless of your plan - into the ground. The FCC has told them numerous times to stop, they told the FCC to fuck off. Numerous times.

      Then the FCC should revoke Comcast's license, plain and simple.

    • Re:Big deal (Score:5, Informative)

      by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot AT davidgerard DOT co DOT uk> on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:05PM (#33629168) Homepage

      The ACCC are quite popular in Australia because they actually make companies behave.

      They're the reason you can't enforce DVD region-locking in Australia, for example. (DVDs are still often sold region-locked, but players can play any region.)

      • by deniable (76198)
        They still sell region locked players. Go into any appliance store and it's hard to find unlocked ones. The ACCC need to start enforcing that one properly.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by David Gerard (12369)

          And they tend to come with a sheet on how to unlock them.

          Mind you, they seem to have paid no attention to region-locking of computer DVD players.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's called "government regulation". It actually works outside the United States of corporAtions. FCC can not stop Comcast, because Comcast paid lobbyists who paid congressmen to remove any punishing powers from FCC before it even got them. In any normal country, if the cable operators would be doing to Internet what they are doing now in the US the government would step in and either fine them obsene amounts of money (not a million, but something like 10% of their income until they fix the problem) or just

    • Re:Big deal (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mjwx (966435) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @08:55PM (#33631346)

      Comcast has throttled any P2P traffic - regardless of your plan - into the ground. The FCC has told them numerous times to stop, they told the FCC to fuck off. Numerous times. But hey - things can play out different in Oz right? Whatever keeps those delusion flags flying is fine by me.

      Two completely different cases here.

      ISP's in Oz cant throttle p2p connections, they can only throttle entire connections and this must be advertised with the service. ISP's in Australia are dumb pipes, doing any kind of throttling or port blocking without the customers knowledge is illegal. That being said, throttling (the entire connection) after a certain cap has been reached is completely legal as long as it has been advertised (customer knows when signing up for the service).

      This complaint is because a customer feels that Optus has misrepresented their service in their advertising, not because Optus is throttling (in plain English, Optus was caught lying). As other posters have mentioned the ACCC (Australian Completion and Consumer Commission) our competition watchdog is quite popular and does work, albeit a little slowly.

  • Limited ISPs (Score:4, Informative)

    by kangsterizer (1698322) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:11PM (#33629202)

    In germany there's an ISP called kabeldeutschland that claims 100mbit down 6mbit up (its cable + fiber behind).
    Except from 6pm to 8am you get less than 1Mbit up/down on every protocol except HTTP. Everyday, no matter how much you downloaded or not (there's no download cap actually).

    Quite sucky and probably borderline legal. They documents only say "up to" of course with no mention of the enforced 100k/s limit depending on the time of the day.
    Their marketing material however, compares their 100mbit versus the 16Mbit of traditional DSL like the best thing since sliced bread. Except the traditional DSL provides 16Mbit on every protocol internet supports regardless of the time of the day, and is therefore much better. (and cheaper!)

  • Optus are utilising the same basic tactics that the Tobacco industry uses - they flagrantly dodge strict advertising laws, but all they ever get is a slap on the wrist.

    Even if Optus only got a thousand new subscribers with that campaign, then they'll still make a long-term profit if they get fined by the ACCC.

  • It gets worse... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bertok (226922) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @08:51PM (#33631318)

    Take a look at the plans by Comcen, a smaller ISP that I'm with. Their new ADSL2+ plans throttle off-peak bandwidth down to 2Mbps all the time, even if you haven't exceeded your quota!

    See the plans here [comcen.com.au]. Click a plan to get more information, where it will say "Off-Peak Speed: Speed is slowed to 2000Kbps (2Mbps) during off-peak only". All but one of the plans has a permanent throttle on night-time bandwidth.

    What if you're a professional who wants to sync or back-up data to your work at night? What if you're a techo like me doing after-hours remote maintenance over a VPN? If you're with this ISP, you won't get a choice, you'll be throttled, even if your physical link can do over ten megabits!

  • The issue is that they advertise "unlimited" then promptly throttle (ie LIMIT your throughput) if you pass the allowed usage.

    The issue is that you cannot say UN-limited,then promptly deliberately apply a limit.
  • To me it seems that flat-rates are never flat-rates, but bets of the providers on a average consumption per user, and that the "outliers" are few enough to ignore their legal complaints or pay them off. Usually the latter is stated somewhere in the fine-print.

    this means:
    -Provider wins in average because normal user never used the data he pays for by the flat-rate.

    -Provider wins even more because he is not even bound to providing a flat-rate, even for those who use more.

    My suggestion:

    -Line providers and Inte

  • Does that mean the connection is advertised to be faster than shouting TCP data out loud from the rooftops?

    Because they're probably in the clear in that case.

  • ... at least 6mbps, but my service provider throttles everyone.

  • But I like it that way (yes, I'm with Optus).
    When I had a basic 256kb/64kb sec ADSL connection with Telstra, they charged something like 15 or 20 cents per megabyte if we went over quota. One month I got a bill for $120 on a nominal "$29.95 per month" account.

    After an ongoing billing dispute with Telstra (their billing system was an Urban Legend of fail), I paid everything out and we signed up with Optus.
    My monthly bill went down, my connection instantly doubled in speed (512/128) and as soon as they instal

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