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Is Telkom’s fair usage policy really fair?

August 29, 2014 • Features, Southern Africa, Top Stories

Telkom

When looking at the fair usage policy and comparing it with the services offered, it looks as though Telkom is essentially contradicting what is promised vs what is provided.

Telkom informed its customers that it will be enforcing its fair usage policy. According to the telecom giant, the reason behind the move was in the spirit of enhancing the Internet experience of all its users.

To add to this, at the beginning of August 2014, Telkom had issued a warning to its uncapped subscribers. The warning stated that excessive concurrent sessions or bandwidth intensive protocols may result in throttling and bandwidth shaping.

According to Telkom, streaming video and music, downloading large files as well as online gaming can be considered as data intensive usage – which will essentially ring alarm bells on a users’ account.

Is the policy really fair?

Telkom advertises its services either on local television stations, radio stations, as well as popular social media platforms like YouTube. These adverts promote streaming video, online gaming, as well as a slew of other services that the company is expecting to enforce.

On the Telkom website, the following value added features are attached to a majority of the products that the telecom giant provides:

- Retrieving email
- Surfing the internet
- Faster file downloads
- Listen to online music
- Watch videos online
- Telephone calls over the internet(VoIP)
- Video conferencing
- Online gaming

When looking at the fair usage policy and comparing it with the services offered, it looks as though Telkom is contradicting what is promised vs what is provided. Additionally, the Telkom Facebook page support team has been suggesting that users only download large content such as games from Midnight to 6am. Granted, the telecom giant has been lenient regarding the policy; however, Telkom products are still being advertised in such a way that they promote downloading, streaming and other data intensive services.

When reaching out to Telkom, the company agreed to answer the following questions:

1. Telkom advertises, on TV and Radio, stating that users can essentially download content, play video games online, and stream video. However, the warning issued a few weeks back tends to call on customers to be cautious as this may result in a customer being throttled or having their account removed from the network. Does this mean that Telkom is contradicting what is advertised vs what is offered?

Telkom responded by stating that: “Telkom’s advertising is not contradictory. Similar to other ISPs, Telkom Internet’s uncapped service has always been subject to a Fair Use Policy and Telkom needed to inform users about the type of usage that may be viewed as excessive. For average downloading, streaming and gaming, customers will not be throttled. However, if a customer uses excessive concurrent downloads, particularly through high bandwidth applications like torrents, the user could negatively affect the service and cost of Internet to other customers. If this high usage occurs continually we will only then apply the Fair Use Policy and limit the customer. In all these cases the high usage customer is advised that his usage is deemed excessive, and the user can take appropriate action including reducing his/her usage, schedule some of his/her downloads to between midnight and 6am or migrate to a higher package. Only about 1% of our total Internet customer base are regarded as high usage customers.”

2. We have come across a few posts on the Telkom Facebook page where support is advising Telkom customers to only download between Midnight and 6am. Won’t this cause conflict between Telkom and its customers on the basis of customers are not getting what they paid for?

“All customers are free to use the network during the day. The Facebook reference is to advise customers on how to get more from their service by arranging downloads in off-peak periods. Between midnight and 6am the network is underutilised. We encourage customers to download during this period because high usage in this period will not contribute to the acceptable use policy determination,” Telkom replied.

3. What is considered as data intensive usage? The Telkom website states that user can essentially play games online, stream videos, and download content. At what point will a user be throttled when using these services?

“Data intensive usage is related to the continual concurrent use of high bandwidth intensive protocols, for example, bit torrents. Applying a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) to an uncapped profile is not an exact science. What Telkom Internet does is to look at the time of day, how busy the network is at the time, the number of concurrent sessions as well as the actual amount of data that has been downloaded. As a result of the dynamic nature of these factors, it is difficult to give an exact number that can be used as a threshold on an uncapped account. On the whole, only about 1% of our total base of customers is regarded as power users and may experience throttling due to excessive usage,” Telkom concluded.

Telkom is sticking to their guns when it comes to its fair usage policy. What are your thoughts on the policy?

Darryl Linington

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