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Usage (Un)Limited

Andy Vandervell

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Moving house can be a tedious business at the best of times. Packing, cleaning, lifting, carrying, driving and unpacking: rinse and repeat. It's a tedious cycle of tasks and having just gone through such a process with fellow staffer Ed, I'm more than happy to be settled down again. Of course, another aspect of moving house is the need setup all your utilities, including water, electricity, phone and, more often than not, Internet.

Now, even my Mum knows - sorry Mum - that Internet services in the UK aren't exactly what they could or ought to be. While Western Europe and Scandinavia in particular have, to a large extent, access to super fast connections capable of delivering the sorts of services everyone likes to talk about (i.e. real on-demand TV), but simply can't deliver; we must put up with a smorgasbord of different services that confuse as much as they often disappoint.

Thus, when you do begin your search, you must first get your head around the different types of broadband connection and whether they're available in your area. Once you've found this out, the Samknows checker is a good way, you've got to decide what kind of service you want to use.

So, there's your regular ADSL and then your variable rate ADSL Max that promises "up to" 8Mbps but rarely delivers it and if you're lucky you might be able to use one of the LLU (Local Loop Unbundling) services that are rated up to 24Mbps, though few actually offer this speed. And, of course, some may want to go down the Cable broadband route, or even Satellite or Wireless offerings where available.

Is this the end? No, not even close. Beyond choosing what type and speed of service you want, you also have the choice between so called "Unlimited" and "Limited" services. I say "choice" because it's not really a choice at all since there's no such thing as "Unlimited" broadband, just different kinds of limitation. This really gets to nub of the problem with broadband in the UK, that is: you're never quite sure what you're getting.

This applies equally to "unlimited" and "limited" services, both of which are simply different solutions to the problem of maintaining reliable and usable connection speeds for all users. In many respects it's a classic chicken and egg situation, with ISPs claiming the limitations necessary to maintaining stability and sustainability when users put "unreasonable" pressure on the network and users accusing a lack of transparency, honesty and investment in infrastructure. Meanwhile, fingers are pointed in all sorts of other directions, too, from BT and Ofcom to the government and anyone who dares get in the way.

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