NTL warns broadband users of 'penalties'

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The Independent Online

In an Orwellian flourish, the telecom company NTL has told 500,000 users of its high-speed internet service that "unmetered" connections are being metered, and there will be penalties for excessive usage.

In an Orwellian flourish, the telecom company NTL has told 500,000 users of its high-speed internet service that "unmetered" connections are being metered, and there will be penalties for excessive usage.

The move has irked customers who signed up to the broadband service, at £15 to £35 per month, and were promised, "NO hidden costs or suprises!" [sic]. Users say NTL has indeed sprung a surprise (or even suprise) by changing the terms of its service retrospectively.

On Friday, NTL, the biggest broadband provider in the UK, altered the Web page carrying its "acceptable use policy" (AUP) for broadband users, who are able to download up to one megabyte of data per second.

The new AUP says anyone downloading more than one gigabyte – 1,000 Mb – in a day would be infringing the policy. That equates to about 10 large software programs, or 200 MP3 music files, or 20,000 Web pages – 15 times more than the average daily download, NTL said.

It also said anyone who exceeded the limit more than three times in a 14-day period would be contacted and "invited to talk" to the company. A few hundred users are believed to be on NTL's list. Some are thought to be businesses using cheaper residential tariffs. Malcolm Padleigh, a spokesman for NTL, said: "We're really aiming to nip this in the bud."

One user said on the forums at nthellworld.com: "People are angry with NTL because the service they are being supplied has been changed without warning ... they have been mis-sold the service'."

BT Openworld, the next largest with 250,000 business and residential users, imposes no such limits on customers, though it changed the terms of its slower "Anytime" dial-up service to stop people using it for extended periods.

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