BT / Sky throttling

by scotslawstudent

ASA Adjudication British Sky Boardcasting Ltd t/a Sky – 16 September 2009

Sky ran an advert claiming that their customers were not going to face a reduction in speeds at peak times, they said that BT would. Naturally BT complained about this. That is hardly unexpected, they’re allowed to complain to the regulator if they disagree with an advert. The ASA then has to take a look at the advert and decide if it actually goes against any rules.

The ASA have uphead their complaint and Sky are not to run their advert again – despite BT admitting that they throttle users’ connections at peak times. How is this possible?

BT use a Fair Use policy — this is the thing that makes the unlimited internet packages economic for the ISP. If you use the service heavily they will slow you down, if you don’t draw too heavily on the service it comes at you quickly. “Effectively unlimited” is the language used.

Fair use policies are marketed as a fairness issue — they’re to stop certain users hogging it for everyone. The complaint to this is that they’re used to hide the fact that the ISP is trying to spread too limited resources between too many users. Heavy users of P2P software are likely to run into fair use policies at some point but other users may also, depending on the strength of their policy. For example, and this is the sort of thing that Sky was talking about, users on Option 1 have their video streaming throttled at peak time. That’s iplayer,

This is an example of fine distinction – the reason that the advert wasn’t allowed was because that it suggests that every BT user would be throttled at peak times (quite an image) rather than the fact that it says that BT throttles users at all. I think the best response to this would be along the lines of Ryanair’s “Sooo sorry” adverts in which, having been ordered to stop saying they were 5x cheaper than a competitor and to apologise, conceded that they were only roughly 4.5x times cheaper and said sorry. Sometimes the letter of the law is the only way to go.