Why Plusnet is not my favourite ISP

Check it out:

The good news is that my “broadband” connection is capable, apparently, of downloading two and half times faster than my old modem was — although it certainly doesn’t feel like that with all the timeouts. The bad news is, is can only upload one fifth as fast. It took me more than a dozen attempts to upload the screenshot above, because my browser kept timing out.

This is because “Your peak-time monthly usage has exceeded 30GB” according to an email from PlusNet. Which happens when you work from home, when your whole job is Internet-dependent, and when all five members of your family use the Internet all the time. Plusnet say “Remember that your usage outside of peak-times doesn’t count towards your allowance”, but (A) who watches the BBC iPlayer with their family outside of 4pm-midnight? And (B) in my experience it’s just not true anyway: my usage meter keeps on racking up.

“But Mike, why don’t you upgrade to a bigger plan?” Because the one I’m on is the biggest Plusnet offer that has a static IP address — which I need for work. Upgrade to more bandwidth, lose the static IP.

“But Mike, why don’t you leave Plusnet and go to a sensible ISP?” Har har har. I have tried: it’s another lobster-pot, just like Network Solutions. (Details to follow in another post when I’ve calmed down a bit.)

It’s 2012. The whole idea of metering network use is stupid.

I will leave Plusnet, however difficult they make it.


17 responses to “Why Plusnet is not my favourite ISP

  1. Sounds like a Kickstarter project to me – a new, non-metered, non-invasive, non-logging ISP!

  2. I think that non-metered, non-invasive, non-logging ISPs are out there — it’s just that they’re not the ones that advertise heavily at you when you’ve just moved in and you’re in a screaming panic to get some kind of Internet connection yesterday. This time, I will do my research.

  3. Those numbers are atrocious.

    Where I’m at in KC MO USA with AT&T, I get 1.5 Mbps down and approx 325 Kbps up. And I consider it to be barely in the range of what one could call broadband.

    Of course I don’t have a static IP. That would be cool. Although I’m a little puzzled as to why work requires one.

    Anyway, IMHO, yeah definitely switch.

    In my case, if I was just a couple miles south I’d be able to get Google Fiber.

    I agree:metering bits = bad and should go away. Except there really is only so much pipe. And the folks that pay the most will tend to get the most of it.

    But let’s just wait and see, at over here in the USA, how things stand after 5 years of Google Fiber. All other companies will have to find some way to compete.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  4. The other alternative is to get a second phone line installed and separate broadband account for “non-work related” use.

  5. We do actually have a second phone-line already, because it’s convenient to have separate work and home numbers. But to take a continuous good like bandwidth and partition into discrete bins feels like a step in the wrong direction. (Also: I keep thinking that we should dump the second line and use a Skype “Online Number” instead.)

  6. I was surprised to see how *little* bandwidth working from home can use — I’m on the smallest plan available at my not-bad ISP, which equated when I joined to 3GiB/month 9am-6pm and is now more like 10GiB/month, and I’ve never come even close to blowing it (and I’m getting about 35Mb/.s down). It’s iPlayer that does it, I think — well, that and the fact that most of my working from home is done on the local system, rather than over some slow Java monstrosity that chatters over the net with every keystroke you make. The most bandwidth-hungry work services I need are git and IRC and they are *not* hungry.

    So, yes, leave, if you can extricate yourself — and I know it can be hard, disentangling myself from Zetnet was fun after they were bought by Breathe and decided to change everyone’s static IP addresses, break email for good, and only accept requests for cancellation over email from that broken Zetnet email account…

    Don’t get rid of the second line yet: my ISP at least can do bonded lines for you, so you have resilience against one of them going down (worth it because BT’s “21st century network” has no resilience at all, one card failing can knock whole towns off ADSL). Costs more, of course.

  7. Nix, I agree that working from home doesn’t in itself take that much bandwidth (though sharing numerous very large specimen photos and CT-can data with other palaeontologists does). It probably is the streaming video that’s dominating. The issues is that, because I work at home, it really hurts when my lame-ass excuse for an ISP deliberately cripples my connection.

    Interesting idea to use the second phone line as Internet backup. But surely they go straight through all the same hardware as soon as they leave the house? (If it makes any difference, the home and office phone numbers are identical except that one ends in 1 and the other in 2.)

  8. Here in Brazil my ISP has 15Mbps DL/1,5 Mbps UP speeds withiout metering or capping. Okay, I pay for this almost BRL 150.00 (apr. USD 75.00), plus a telco plan that is more BRL 80,00 (apr. USD 40.00), but I’m satisfied for now.

  9. Years ago, I got a “wires-only” connection from Pipex with a static IP that was unlimited, and unmetered. Pipex was taken over, and the next company was taken over and so on, until numerous acquisitions later my ISP is now TalkTalk. My service levels have not “officially” deteriorated, in that I still enjoy unlimited downloads and unmetered connections, but I can’t get additional bandwidth without enrolling in one of their package products – which will then be immediately throttled as Mike describes. More to the point, I don’t want any of the packages. Of course, TalkTalk are “encouraging” me to move by hiking my monthly fees every six months as they really hate having to support non-standard tariffs. My eyes almost bleed whenever I look at my monthly bill, but I am concerned about jumping ship in case I end up with a worse deal.

  10. Yes, Vince. I do now have my MAC address from them (that was a story in itself) but finding the right alternative to jump ship is a whole thing in itself. It’s very hard to find the perfectly simple combination of unlimited bandwidth and static IP without also having to switch phone provider (e.g. John Lewis broadband requires this).

  11. Metering has the interesting benefit of aligning carrier’s interests with yours: if they get paid more for more data moving, they’ll be game for upgrading equipment to make it faster and faster so you are tempted to use more. They’ll want to encourage new bandwidthy things.

    As for “non-invasive, non-logging ISPs” those are soon to be literally illegal. Hell, media companies already sued Ireland unde some existing treaties when they didn’t make the laws they wanted. Look at the provisions for data retention in the (rejected) ACTA that have resurfaced in TPP and CETA.

    Don’t you just love secretly negotiated treaties trying to institutionalise our de factor opaque, corporate international government by fiat?

  12. I take your point on metering going some way towards making the ISP want what I want. But, no, it won’t do. It fundamentally changes the way we use the Internet. Towards the end of last month, I found myself thinking things like “I’d like to watch the TED talk, but that might push me over the limit where it becomes impossible to do my job ssh’d into remote servers”. Or “We’d like to watch Doctor Who tomorrow night on the iPlayer, but we’d better stay in and watch it as it’s broadcast on TV, so we don’t use so much bandwidth that multi-player Halo Reach becomes unresponsive”. Those are just stupid thoughts to have to think in the 21st century.

  13. Mike: my lines do go through the same pipe and to the same cabinet, but once they get to the exchange one goes to BT exchange equipment, the other to Be. Except for bad-joint/rain-related problems, and problems with people with big pneumatic drills who don’t know where they should go, the problems you experience probably happen upstream of that exchange equipment, so it’s quite likely you’ll lose one line and not the other.

  14. Metering is so awesome! (sarcasm) Metering makes it even more the case that those that pay the most get the most bandwidth.

    And, once metering is normal and you’re used to it, won’t it just be awesome how they’ll have goofy plans like with cell phones where you have a limited amount of “whenever minutes” (I mean data packets) and then a special roll-over, carry-over thing where you get to use *more* data packets, but each 1Kbyte of packets costs you an additional $5.00 US or something.

    The argument that metering incentives the data carrier to want me to use more bandwidth seems sound, but based on past and recent experience I’m deeply mistrustful.

    But then now I think about it, perhaps we’re mixing over between *meter*ing and *throttle*ing.

    They might get to the point where metering is the accepted way to do things. But when that happens, that’s a net win for Team ISP. It’s a net loss for the customer, “All the boys upstairs wanna see / how much you’ll pay for what you used to get for free.”

    But the throttling–specifically the kind where if you exceed some amount of data per month they essentially turn your Internet *off* for a while–yeah that’s gonna have to go away.

    If Internet is the new utility, then this would be akin to turning off someone’s water or electricity. There’s no need for that kind of throttling. If you don’t want the user to be able to use up X Mbp per month then don’t sell them the promise of it.

    Sorry for rambling semi-incoherently.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  15. We have a satellite connection at our summer cottage and bandwidth and quota are extremely limited. We’ve been thinking of getting a Gargoyle router (www.gargoyle-router.com) which breaks one’s monthly allocation into daily or hourly allocations so we are less likely to run over the line and trigger our ISP brutal throttling.

    Have you considered getting two data lines? It might prove cheaper and simpler than trying to upgrade. You could treat them like a pair of gas tanks running down one, then switching to the other. Also, could you use something like DYNDNS for inward connections rather than a static IP? It’s a cheap service, and might give you more flexibility when choosing a plan.

  16. Two data lines is an option, but really in 2012 I don’t want to even be thinking about stuff like which line is in use. That stuff should all be invisible now.

  17. Pingback: The abject and persistent incompetence of PlusNet | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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